image

Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump claims US culture, history being ‘ripped apart’ in row over Confederate monuments

Trump also lashed out at two leading Republican critics in the Senate and accused the media of distorting his remarks about Charlottesville violence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 11:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 11:23pm

A defiant President Donald Trump shrugged off a barrage of bipartisan criticism on Thursday and said US culture and history were being “ripped apart” by the removal of Confederate statues.

Trump waded back into the charged racial debate over monuments to the pro-slavery South with a volley of tweets doubling down on his controversial remarks of the past few days.

Trump has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike for saying that anti-racism protesters deserved equal blame for violence last weekend at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, held to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 other people injured when a man suspected of being a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Moves to remove statues honouring leaders of the Confederacy have gained momentum since the Charlottesville violence with monuments coming down in Baltimore and other cities.

Trump, echoing remarks he first made earlier this week, made it clear he opposed the campaign.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump said.

“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!”

Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were Confederate generals while George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were among the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Trump critics were quick to point out the difference.

Playing with fire: why won’t Trump just condemn white supremacists, instead of blaming ‘many sides’?

“Dear @realDonaldTrump: Robert Lee and Stonewall Jackson are not the same as Washington and Jefferson. Can’t believe I had to write that sentence,” said Ted Lieu, a Democratic congressman from California.

Trump on Thursday also lashed out at two leading Republican critics in the Senate and accused the media of distorting his views.

“The public is learning (even more so) how dishonest the Fake News is,” he said. “They totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry. etc. Shame!”

On Monday, Trump singled out the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis as “repugnant,” but on Tuesday he said counter-protesters in Charlottesville had been “very violent” and equally responsible for the violence.

Trump’s weak condemnation of the racist far-right set off a political firestorm across the US political spectrum. World leaders also criticised Trump’s response.

Trump was forced to scrap two White House economic advisory councils on Wednesday as top businessmen began abandoning him to protest his stance on the racial debate.

The president took aim at two fellow Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona, in a series of tweets.

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists ... and people like Ms. Heyer,” Trump said.

Alleged Charlottesville killer James Fields ‘sympathised with Nazism and idolised Hitler’, former teacher recalls

Heather Heyer, 32, was the woman killed by the suspected white nationalist in Charlottesville.

Graham had said the US president “took a step backward” Tuesday “by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally” and people like Heyer.

Trump also blasted Flake, one of the few Republicans openly critical of the president, saying he was “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate.”

“He’s toxic!” Trump tweeted.

Flake, who is running for re-election in Arizona, wrote Tuesday: “We can’t accept excuses for white supremacy & acts of domestic terrorism. We must condemn. Period.”