POLITICS

John Kelly Says Lack Of 'Compromise' Started Civil War, Defends Statues

On Fox News, Trump's chief of staff calls Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee an "honorable man ... who gave up his country to fight for his state."

10/31/2017 00:16 EDT | Updated 10/31/2017 10:38 EDT

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said on Monday that a “lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War” and called the removal of Confederate monuments a “dangerous” scrubbing of history.

Kelly, speaking to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham during the debut of her new show, “The Ingraham Angle,” made the comments when asked about his thoughts on the removal of two plaques honoring President George Washington and Gen. Robert E. Lee at a church in Alexandria, Virginia. 

“I think we make a mistake, though, and as a society and certainly as, as individuals, when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more and say: ‘What Christopher Columbus did was wrong,’” Kelly said. “You know, 500 years later, it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then.”

He went on to describe Lee, a Confederate general who fought for Southern states’ rights to own slaves, as honorable.

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.

“He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which, 150 years ago, was more important than country. 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.”

The leaders of Christ Church in Alexandria said this month it would relocate two plaques honoring Washington and Lee after deciding they “may create an obstacle to our identity as a welcoming church,” The Guardian reported. The move follows an impassioned summer of activism that saw the removal of many Confederate statues around the United States, which led to protests including a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“There are certain things in history that were not so good and other things that were very, very good,” Kelly told Ingraham when speaking about the removal of monuments. “I mean, human history, our culture is an evolving thing. There will be 100 or 200 years from now people that criticize us for what we do, and I guess they’ll tear down, you know, statues of people that we revere today.”