Black Lawmakers and Leaders Blast John Kelly for ‘Dangerous’ Civil War Comments

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) speaks at a Congressional Tri-Caucus news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2017, on injustice and inequality in America. Richmond was among many black leaders who blasted White House chief of staff John Kelly for his Oct. 30, 2017, comments about the Civil War during a Fox News interview. (Andrew Harnik/AP Images)

A number of black leaders in Congress, the media and academia have roundly criticized White House chief of staff John Kelly for his inaccurate and dangerous comments about the Civil War.

In an interview given to Fox News Monday night, Kelly got on the topic of Confederate monuments. He defended Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and claimed that a lack of compromise caused the war.


“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly told host Laura Ingraham. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country.

“But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War,” Kelly continued. “And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

The comments drew widespread criticism from historians, pundits, and congressional and religious leaders. Among them was Hilary Shelton, head of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the NAACP, who called Kelly’s historical revision “dangerously simplistic,” according to McClatchy DC Bureau. Shelton added that the NAACP would love to give White House officials a history lesson.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), head of the Congressional Black Caucus, certainly thinks Kelly needs it.


“The Civil War was not a disagreement between ‘men and women of good faith on both sides,’” Richmond said, citing Kelly’s own words. “It was a struggle for the soul of this country.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only black Republican in the Senate, also condemned Kelly’s comments.


“We need to stop relitigating and referencing the Civil War as if there was some moral conundrum. There was no compromise to make—only a choice between continuing slavery and ending it,” he said.

The Rev. William Barber, the former head of North Carolina’s NAACP, called out Kelly’s interpretation of the war as “a lie.”


“Compromise is what allowed slavery to exist in the first place. Revisionist history is dangerous,” Barber said.

Also among the lawmakers calling out Kelly is Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), the lawmaker Kelly attacked in a rare press briefing earlier in October.


During his interview with Ingraham, Kelly said that he would “never” apologize to Wilson about comments he made about her.

Wilson wrote in a tweet in the aftermath of Kelly’s Civil War comments: “What exactly, I wonder, would be the right ‘compromise’ between slavery and freedom for human beings?”


Read more at McClatchy DC Bureau.

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Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?