White House chief of staff John Kelly has said that Confederate General Robert E. Lee was ‘an honorable man’ and that ‘the lack of the ability to compromise’ sparked the Civil War.
Kelly made his remarks in an interview with Fox News that aired Monday night, speaking in response to a Virginia church’s decision to remove historical markers for Lee and George Washington.
‘I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,’ Kelly told host Laura Ingraham.
‘He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country,’ said Kelly, referring to Lee’s decision to resign his US Army commission when Virginia seceded, despite privately opposing the break-up of the Union.
‘It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand,’ Kelly went on.
John Kelly made his remarks in an interview with Fox News that aired Monday night
‘I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,’ Kelly told host Laura Ingraham. ‘He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state’
The retired Marine general added that applying current thinking on social issues to figures in history is ‘very, very dangerous’.
Kelly’s remarks echo his boss President Donald Trump, who has denounced the fever for removing Confederate monuments, including those to Lee, which has swept the country.
The trend has quickly grown to attacks on monuments to presidents including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as explorer Christopher Colombus and other more obscure historical figures.
‘Well, history’s history,’ Kelly said when asked about a church in Alexandria, Virginia that Washington and Lee both attended, which has decided to remove plaques mentioning the two men to make visitors feel ‘welcome’.
Robert E. Lee Lee’s decided to resign his US Army commission when Virginia seceded, despite privately opposing the break-up of the Union. Kelly has backed him as an ‘honorable man’
The White House chief of staff was responding to questions about a church in Virginia that is removing commemorative plaques to former congregants Lee and George Washington
‘And there are certain things in history that were not so good and other things that were very, very good,’ he continued.
‘I think we make a mistake, though, and as a society and certainly as individuals, when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more and say what those, you know, what Christopher Columbus did was wrong.’
‘You know, 500 years later, it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then.’
The steely ex-general generated controversy earlier this month, when he waded into a public dispute between Trump and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.
Kelly, who himself lost a son in battle, backed Trump in the dispute over condolence calls to a Gold Star family that complained the president wasn’t sufficiently comforting on the call.
In the interview with Ingraham, Kelly said he would not back down from false claims he made about Wilson in the midst of that row.
Kelly also said he would not back down from remarks about Rep. Frederica Wilson (pictured)
Kelly complained that the Democrat Representative had gone on stage at the dedication service for a new FBI field office in Miami and boasted about the money she raised to build it.
He said the audience was ‘stunned’ by the remarks at the somber occasion, which saw the building being named after two agents who died in the line of duty.
But footage played by Ingraham – who was interviewing Kelly for the debut of her Fox News show The Ingraham Angle – showed that Wilson made no such claims.
Kelly suggested that she had actually made the comments at the event but outside of her speech, calling it a ‘package deal.’
‘Well, I’ll go back and talk about before her comments and at the reception afterwards,’ he said. ‘Again, it was a package deal. Don’t want to get into it.’