Trump ‘sad’ to see history ‘ripped apart’ with removal of ‘beautiful statues’
Remarks come as officials in several states seek symbols of Confederacy taken down
US president Donald Trump at a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan. Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times
Under fire for defending racist activist groups, US president Donald Trump has said on Twitter that he was “sad” to see United States’s history torn apart by the removal of “our beautiful statues and monuments,”.
This echoes a popular refrain of white supremacist groups that oppose the removal of Confederate monuments.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” Mr Trump posted on Twitter on Thursday.
Officials in several states have called for the removal of public monuments that have become symbols of the Confederacy.
The proposed removal of a statute of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park in Charlottesville spurred the demonstrations.
Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
...the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
On Saturday, the day of the protests, Mr Trump did not condemn neo-Nazis or white supremacists in his public remarks about the violence, prompting criticism that his omission suggested support for the racist groups.
An Ohio man with white supremacist ties is accused of driving his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people. Two days later, Mr Trump bowed to pressure and said racism was “evil” and named racist organisations in his follow-up remarks about Charlottesville.
But on Tuesday, Mr Trump reverted to his initial public posture and blamed “both sides” for the violence.
On Thursday morning, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham repeated his criticism of the president’s actions in a series of Twitter posts after Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Graham was “publicity seeking.”
“Because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation, as our President, please fix this,” Mr Graham wrote on Twitter.
Other Republicans, including the most powerful in Congress, have been making strong statements on Charlottesville and racism, but few have been mentioning Mr Trump himself. The Senate’s top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, condemned “hate and bigotry”. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “white supremacy is repulsive”. But neither criticised the president’s insistence that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the violent weekend clash in Virginia. The nuanced statements reflect the party establishment’s delicate dance. Few top Republican officeholders want to defend the president in the midst of an escalating political crisis, yet they are unwilling to declare all-out opposition to him and risk alienating his loyalists.
In another major sign of discontent within the Republican Party, Mr Trump abruptly abolished two of his White House business councils on Wednesday as corporate chiefs began resigning in protest over his racial statements.
“Rather than putting pressure on the business people of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” Mr Trump tweeted from New York.
His action came after one of the panels had already agreed to disband earlier in the day. The White House is trying to deal with the repercussions from Mr Trump’s defiant remarks on the Virginia tragedy.
Advisers hunkered down, offering no public defence while privately expressing frustration with his comments. But Mr Trump himself, staying at his golf club in New Jersey, was increasing rather than slowing his tweet-a-thon.
On Wednesday, he had told associates he was pleased with how his combative press conference had gone a day earlier, saying he believed he had effectively stood up to the media, according to three people familiar with the conversations.
New York Times and Reuters