Trump decries Confederate statues' removal: 'You can't change history'

By Andrew V. Pestano and Eric DuVall  |  Aug. 17, 2017 at 1:53 PM
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Aug. 17 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday criticized the removal of Confederate monuments in the United States, saying that "beauty" is "being taken out of our cities."

Trump made the comments in a series of posts on Twitter.

"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he wrote. "You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!"

"The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!" he continued.

The president's tweets came amid criticism Trump has received over his response to the Charlottesville, Va., attack last weekend.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Trump defended his initial response that "many sides" were responsible for violence that resulted from protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville -- clashes sparked by the removal of a Confederate statue there, and which resulted in the death of 32-year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer.

Politicians from both parties reacted differently.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, an outspoken conservative, hailed Trump's stance. He condemned the Ku Klux Klan, members of which were in attendance in Charlottesville, but said counter-protesters who incited violence were "equally as bad."

He also likened the removal of Confederate statues to taking down monuments honoring victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Whether we like it or not this is what our history is and to me it's just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11," LePage told WGAN radio during a weekly interview. "It will come to that."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., though, called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to remove all Confederate monuments from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.

"The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible," Pelosi said in a statement. "If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately."

Pelosi pointed out that when Democrats were in control of Congress, they moved a statue of Lee, the Confederate general, out of Statuary Hall in the Capitol and replaced it with one of civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

At the local level, cities have grappled with how to handle Confederate statues that have the potential to become flash points for racial animus. The city of Baltimore removed multiple Confederate monuments in the early morning hours Wednesday with no warning.

The fallout from Trump's press conference includes the dismantling of two of his advisory boards -- the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum.

"Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville," Campbell Soup President and CEO Denise Morrison wrote after she left the manufacturing council Wednesday. "Following [Tuesday's] remarks from the president, I cannot remain on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. I will continue to support all efforts to spur economic growth and advocate for the values that have always made America great."

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