RFK Jr. Denounces the Removal of Confederate Statues

Chris Cameron / The New York Times
RFK Jr. Denounces the Removal of Confederate Statues A monument to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee being removed in Richmond, Va., in 2021. (photo: Brian Palmer/The New York Times)

The independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said on a recent podcast that he had a “visceral reaction” to the removal of statues glorifying Confederate leaders.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. denounced the removal of hundreds of Confederate statues and other monuments across the United States after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.

In a podcast interview that aired live on Friday from the Libertarian National Convention in Washington, Mr. Kennedy, an independent candidate for president, portrayed the removal of statues honoring the Confederacy as “destroying history,” echoing similar comments made by former President Donald J. Trump in support of the monuments.

While defending the statues, Mr. Kennedy also said that there were “heroes in the Confederacy who didn’t have slaves,” though when he later picked an example of a Confederate whom he idolized, he singled out Robert E. Lee, a prominent general in the rebel army who owned slaves.

“I have a visceral reaction against the attacks on those statues,” Mr. Kennedy said on the podcast, which was hosted by Tim Pool, a right-wing commentator. Mr. Kennedy had been asked specifically about the removal of a statue of Lee in Charlottesville, Va., in 2021. He added that “if we want to find people who are completely virtuous on every issue throughout history, we would erase all of history.”

Statues and other monuments glorifying the Confederacy were erected — most at the height of the Jim Crow era — as part of a movement to advance the Lost Cause myth, which in various iterations depicted the Confederacy’s rebellion as a noble defense of Southern values or falsely asserted that the Civil War was fought over “states’ rights,” not slavery. Many of the monuments also distort history by portraying Black Americans as loyal to white Southerners in their enslavement.

Hundreds of Confederate symbols have been taken down since 2020, driven by social justice activists and local communities who viewed the monuments as glorifying an ugly history of racism against African Americans. More than 2,000 of the symbols remain, mostly in the South.

Mr. Trump equated their removal to “changing history” when he defended some participants of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, who had gathered to protect the statue of Lee that was later removed. Mr. Trump later resisted efforts to rename nine southern Army bases that had been named for treasonous Confederate generals who fought against the U.S. Army.

As a candidate in 2020, President Biden supported the removal of Confederate statues, as well as the renaming of the Army bases, which was ultimately carried out during his administration.

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