While discussing the movement to eradicate the presence of the Confederate flag, a CNN host asked whether we should also bring down a monument to a president who owned slaves.
After last week’s slaughter of nine black churchgoers by a white gunman in Charleston, South Carolina, aroused debate over the Confederate flag and inspired at least six major retailers to ban its sale, CNN host Ashleigh Banfield asked co-host Don Lemon whether this means we should also take down a memorial to former President Thomas Jefferson because of his slave ownership in the 1700s and early 1800s.
"Jefferson owned slaves," Banfield said, noting that a previous guest had made a "good point" in bringing that up. "Thomas Jefferson owned slaves -- third president of the United States. And there is a monument to him in the capital city of the United States. No one ever asks for that to come down. Is it equal [to the Confederate flag]?"
Lemon shot down the comparison.
"No, I don't think it's equal, because Jefferson was a figure who was part of the entire United States, not just the South," he said. "There may come a day when we want to rethink Jefferson. I don't know if we should do that, but when we get to that point, I'll be happy to partake in that particular discussion. But right now I don't think the two are equal."
Pointing to every racist moment in U.S. history as if it were equal to ongoing acceptance of the Confederate flag is not appropriate right now, Lemon continued.
"It's not just 'What about this, and what about this, and what about this?'" he said. "We're talking about nine people who are dead, who were slaughtered. We're talking about people in the South who have been sick of that flag and living under the oppression of that flag for generations, and so now this is the time to talk about it."