Donald Trump caused a relaxing Friday firestorm when he defended his 2017 response to the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally that resulted in the murder of activist Heather Heyer.
Asked whether he stood by his infamous “very fine people on both sides” quote regarding the clash between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators Trump batted the question aside like an angry kitten, saying:
“I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E Lee. A great general, whether you like it or not. He was one of the great generals.”
Asked if he still thinks there were "very fine people" on both sides of the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Trump says, "I was talking about people that went b/c they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E Lee. A great general, whether you like it or not" pic.twitter.com/D7O5vFWy29— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 26, 2019
It’s very difficult to imagine that life-long New Yorker Donald Trump has any particularly warm feelings, or feelings whatsoever, for Robert E. Lee, but much easier to imagine that he knows it’s what his base wants to hear and that they will read what they choose to into his statement.
This is a cop out that will actually play well with his base. He’s making it about American history. But we all know that Trump always speaks impulsively, and “very fine people“ always meant “I will not say bad things about the people who voted for me.“ https://t.co/zC5ZRyJT15— Aaron Fullerton (@AaronFullerton) April 26, 2019
As some pointed out Trump’s defense of his comments amount to misdirection because it’s clear from accounts of the event that the “Unite the Right” rally was never really about a confederate statue, but rather about white supremacy.
This is a lie. I know because my son-in-law was a National Guard MP surrounding the Lee statue. No one was there to protest the statue’s removal. They were there to fight. They came armed and ready. Trump knows it’s a lie and people died. Thank God it wasn’t my kid. https://t.co/TY7qghgERa— Fred Wellman (@FPWellman) April 26, 2019
The Lee statue served as a great backdrop for Nazi action, but Unite the Right was never even billed as in defense of a statue. That argument is used by white supremacists who are in court on charges related to the rally. The fliers mentioned whiteness, not Lee pic.twitter.com/FQYVEGmqgS— Andy Campbell (@AndyBCampbell) April 26, 2019
The chilling chant “You will not replace us!” certainly had nothing to do with statues.
Others pointed out that even if Trump’s Robert E. Lee defense were an honest one, he would still be defending not just “one of the great generals” but one of the great racists.
Lee's army kidnapped free black people in the north and sent them south to slavery, and somehow we still sit around debating whether he was a good dude almost 150y after his death. The Lost Cause is a persistent poison.— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) April 26, 2019
Robert E. Lee owned 200 slaves (which he famously tortured) then led a rebellion to extend slavery which killed 620,000 people.— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) April 26, 2019
Saying you're not a racist, you just love Robert E. Lee is like saying you're not an antisemite, you just love Hitler. https://t.co/K3jEHpZFSD
"I wasn't defending racists. I was defending people who love a guy who fought as hard as he could to preserve slavery." https://t.co/jK9Lf32TyM— Thor Benson (@thor_benson) April 26, 2019
Look, Robert E. Lee may have lost the war, but at least he was doing his best to preserve and perpetuate a completely indefensible institution, and that is certainly no cause to, say, dig up his bones and slam dunk them into a big toilet— Patrick Monahan (@pattymo) April 26, 2019
If Robert E. Lee was a great general, the United States of America would look like the part in blue. pic.twitter.com/m6wQg0Ag4g— Jay Welch (@welchjay) April 26, 2019