Well, looks like we can add a man who put his life on the line to defend slavery on President Trump’s list of “very fine people.”
Speaking at one of his campaign rallies in Ohio, noted intellectual and academic Donald Trump Trump decided to give Ohioans an impromptu history lesson. First, he told them about Ohioan President William McKinley, who, according to Trump, “has not been properly recognized” for his economic successes, especially being “smart on tariffs” and trade.
No mention of any context for McKinley’s tariffs, like the gold-standard economics of the time or the fun fact that the 20th-century growth of tariffs like McKinley’s were one of the causes of the Great Depression, but fine!
But Trump’s highest praise was reserved for another famous Ohioan, Civil War general and slavery enthusiast Robert E. Lee, who he called “a great general” who was “winning battle after battle after battle.”
You may remember Robert E. Lee as the man immortalized in a statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, the proposed removal of which incited the Unite the Right rally in which a Neo-Nazi killed counter-protester Heather Heyer, two police officers died in a helicopter crash, and some 38+ others were seriously injured.
But Trump’s praise did not go unchallenged.
One of Robert E. Lee’s descendants, his great-great-great-great nephew Pastor Robert Lee IV, took to Twitter to slam both Trump and his ancestor.
ÛÏLast night I was disheartened to hear Donald Trump, our president, make comments about Robert E. Lee as a great general, as an honorable man. These were far from the truth. Robert E. Lee fought for the continued enslavement of black bodies. It was for stateÛªs rights, yes, but it was for stateÛªs rights to own slaves.”
This isn’t the first time Lee has spoken out against both his ancestor and Trump.
When he was invited to speak at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards in the wake of the Charlottesville uprising, Lee called his ancestor an “idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate” and racism “AmericaÛªs original sin,” the backlash from which forced him to step down as pastor of a North Carolina church.
On social media, the debate was fiery and fierce on both sides of the issue.
But in contrast, Lee IV’s video seemed to inspire mostly praise.
Lee IV concluded his statements on a hopeful, positive note, stating that while he was ÛÏsaddened by the state of our nation,Û he was also “encouraged because we are going to work to end this.”
Referencing the upcoming midterm elections, he added:
“We are going to vote. We are going to show Donald Trump that white supremacy has no place in … our government. We are going to show him who the people are and what really matters in this nation.”
Midterm elections are slated for Tuesday, November 6, 2018.