WASHINGTON ― Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) seemingly chided White House chief of staff John Kelly on Tuesday after the former Marine Corps general claimed that the Civil War was caused by the inability to compromise.
“We need to stop relitigating and referencing the Civil War as if there was some moral conundrum,” Scott, the sole black Senate Republican, said in a statement. “There was no compromise to make – only a choice between continuing slavery and ending it. We need to move forward together, instead of letting the divisions of the past continue to force us apart.”
Kelly on Monday said a “lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War” and called the removal of Confederate monuments a “dangerous” scrubbing of history. The senior Donald Trump aide made the comments during an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, who asked his thoughts about the removal of two plaques honoring President George Washington and Gen. Robert E. Lee at a church in Alexandria, Virginia.
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said during the interview.
“He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which, 150 years ago, was more important than country,” he added. “It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. 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 to make their stand.”
A number of U.S. historians have criticized Kelly’s comments about the Civil War, calling them “strange,” “sad,” and “wrong.” Stephanie McCurry, a history professor at Columbia University, told The Washington Post that Kelly’s comments echoed talking points of a “pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, defended her boss on Tuesday, accusing reporters of creating a false narrative.
“Because you don’t like history doesn’t mean that you can erase it and pretend that it didn’t happen,” Sanders said during a daily press briefing. “I think that’s the point that Gen. Kelly was trying to make.”
“All of our leaders have flaws,” Sanders added, citing George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. “That doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country.”
Scott has been particularly vocal about the issue of racism in America. After white supremacists rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the summer, Scott met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office to discuss the president’s controversial response in which he said there was “blame on both sides.”