White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stuck up for chief of staff John Kelly on Tuesday after he ignited controversy by complimenting Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as “an honorable man,” reminding reporters that history is not open to revision.
During a Monday night interview with Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham, Kelly was asked about a Virginia church’s recent decision to remove plaques that honored both Lee and George Washington.
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” he replied. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days.”
“Now it’s different today,” Kelly continued. “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.”
Sanders, who told reporters that just “because you don’t like history, doesn’t mean you can erase it,” conceded that Lee was not a perfect human being.
“Look, all of our leaders have flaws,” she said. “That doesn’t diminish the contributions to our country and certainly can’t erase them from history. And General Kelly was simply making the point because history isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it’s not our history.”
“To try to create something and push a narrative that simply doesn’t exist is just, frankly, outrageous and absurd,” Sanders continued.
“I think the fact that we keep trying to drive – the media continues to want to make this, and push that this is some sort of a racially charged and divided White House… Frankly, the only people I see stoking political racism right now are the people running ads like the one you saw take place in Virginia earlier this week.”
Sanders was referring to an ad funded by the Democratic group Latino Victory Group that began airing on Monday and shows minority children being chased by a pickup truck bearing a Confederate flag, a “Gillespie for governor” bumper sticker, and a Gadsden flag license plate.