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Fact Check: ‘Whatabout’ Those Other Historical Figures? Trump’s Question Answered

President Trump rhetorically questioned either statues of Thomas Jefferson, one of that stands in a Jefferson Memorial in D.C., and George Washington should come down since they were worker owners.

J. David Ake/AP


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J. David Ake/AP

President Trump rhetorically questioned either statues of Thomas Jefferson, one of that stands in a Jefferson Memorial in D.C., and George Washington should come down since they were worker owners.

J. David Ake/AP

“So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. we beheld that Stonewall Jackson’s entrance down. we wonder, is it George Washington subsequent week? And is it Thomas Jefferson a week after? You know, we unequivocally do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?…. [Jefferson] was a vital worker owner. Are we going to take down his statue?” — President Trump, Aug. 15, 2017

The boss done this matter Tuesday while jabbing during reporters over a white supremacist convene in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists protested a dismissal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

And he used one of his customary controversial techniques, “whataboutism.”

While fortifying a protesters and claiming that they weren’t all white supremacists, he altered a theme to dispute others. “What about a alt-left?” he said, when asked about a white jingoist alt-right. (“Alt-left” is a tenure clearly invented for whataboutism, creation liberals seem like a dignified equivalents of a “alt-right,” whose members coined that tenure themselves.)

The president’s whataboutism on story is a concentration here.

“Are we going to take down statues of George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?” Trump asked, given Washington and Jefferson’s worker ownership. He added, “You know, we unequivocally do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Well, let’s take on those questions. The boss is not a initial chairman to ask.

Washington did possess slaves — and does not get a pass for pardon them during a finish of his life. Jefferson was a “major worker owner,” too — and is even some-more to be criticized, since he accepted that labour was wrong, job it a “moral depravity” and a “hideous blot.”

Nor were they alone among a Founding Fathers: James Madison was a worker owner; even Ben Franklin owned dual slaves before a use was criminialized in Pennsylvania. Slavery was so deeply confirmed in a economy that it overwhelmed scarcely everybody who lived before a Civil War, even those who did not possess a slave.

This is an ungainly existence for a keepers of memorials and ancestral sites. Keepers of a Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, have been forced to combat with a existence that he took Indian land, used deferential laborers on mixed plantations, and even privately chased transient slaves. The Hermitage has responded by expanding displays display a dim side of this ancestral figure; yet they’re not formulation to rip down a house.

So “whatabout” them? Must they all go if Robert E. Lee goes?

Not necessarily, since they are not all a same.

Some total stood for something larger. Washington guided a substructure of a nation that eventually recorded leisure for all. Jefferson authored a Declaration of Independence, in that a singular word — “that all organisation are combined equal” — became a produce that after generations would use to assistance pound a bondage of slavery.

It’s probable to make a box for honoring such men, so prolonged as we are also honest about their flaws. They were participants in a good examination in self-government, that has stretched over time to welcome some-more and some-more people of all races, not to discuss women, too.

So “whatabout” Lee? What did he mount for?

Lee, who is connected by matrimony to a family of Washington, quiescent from a Army to quarrel against his country, on a Confederate side in a Civil War.

Then and later, Confederate apologists discharged a thought that they were fighting to urge slavery. They pronounced they were fighting for “states’ rights,” or opposite Northern oppression. But dispute over labour was what drove the quarrel for states’ rights and divided a nation for years before a war. The choosing of Abraham Lincoln, a boss who was vicious of slavery, triggered a rebellion.

And a Confederate clamp president, Alexander H. Stephens, was some-more straightforward than others in observant a rebels’ aims. In an 1861 speech, he announced that a “cornerstone” of a Confederacy was “that a dark-skinned is not equal to a white man; that labour mastery to a higher competition is his healthy and normal condition.”

Other Confederates might have fought for opposite reasons; it is pronounced that Lee went over to a insurgent side since he could not bear to quarrel opposite his local Virginia. But Stephens’ “cornerstone” debate accurately describes a incomparable means that Lee frankly served and generally accepted: a expostulate to overturn the thought of equality, that Stephens called an “error.” This means was a reason that many Confederate statues were built in a epoch of Jim Crow segregation, from after Reconstruction to a polite rights transformation starting in a 1950s. Aside from Southern “heritage” or “pride,” many categorically represented white supremacy.

There is still a box to be done for Lee as a shining general, who won conflict after conflict and kept his army together for years, even yet it was massively outnumbered and undersupplied. He is a poignant figure in a American story.

Ulysses S. Grant, a ubiquitous who degraded him, gave a best inscription of Lee, observant a Confederate ubiquitous “had fought so prolonged and valiantly, and had suffered so most for a cause, yet that means was, we believe, one of a misfortune for that a people ever fought.”

But let’s be honest. In Charlottesville over a weekend, a “Unite a Right” protesters chanted “blood and soil;” others listened to Richard Spencer, who has called for an all-white homeland. Members of one group, Identity Evropa, “seem to revelry in goading counter-protesters into aroused clashes,” according to a form of a member on KQED. Counterprotesters were indeed goaded into clashes — and a car, allegedly driven by an Ohio male on a white-nationalist side, gathering into them, murdering a woman.

Is it remotely probable that Spencer and Identity Evropa and a motorist of a Dodge Challenger came to urge a statue of Lee because of his ability in troops plan and strategy?

To have such defenders says a lot about a means that Lee represented. To have a boss of a United States review Lee to Washington is simply, factually wrong.