In an interview with Laura Ingraham, Kelly said that Confederate General Robert E. Lee was an “honorable” man and that the Civil War was caused by a “lack of an ability to compromise.”
“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,” Kelly said. “It’s dangerous, I think. … It’s just very, very dangerous and it shows you what, how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is.”
Kelly praised Lee for choosing to fight for his state over loyalty to his nation.
“It was always loyalty to state first back in those days,” Kelly said. “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,” Kelly added.
John Kelly is not a good historian pic.twitter.com/VHn4Ls8tSF
— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) October 31, 2017
Kelly never mentioned slavery, which was the lifeblood of the Southern economy. He also failed to mention that Lee believed slavery was necessary to “civilize” black people and considered it a burden on Southern whites.
Pierce, the star of shows like “The Wire” and “Treme,” fired back at Kelly’s whitewashing of history by labeling him a “racist prick.”
“While they raped my Grandmother, lynched my Uncle, broke up my family to lost history, you find honor & compromise in that, you racist, prick?” Pierce wrote.
While they raped my Grandmother,lynched my Uncle,broke up my family to lost history, you find honor & compromise in that, you racist, prick? https://t.co/bOihrwd67N
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) October 31, 2017
Stephanie McCurry, a history professor at Columbia University and the author of “Confederate Reckoning: Politics and Power in the Civil War South,” said that Kelly’s statement echoed the talking points of the Jim Crow era.
“That statement could have been given by [former Confederate general] Jubal Early in 1880,” she told The Washington Post. “What’s so strange about this statement is how closely it tracks or resembles the view of the Civil War that the South had finally got the nation to embrace by the early 20th century. It’s the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War. I mean, it tracks all of the major talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.”
David Blight, a history professor at Yale and the author of “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory,” completely rejected Kelly’s narrative as “ignorance.”
“This is profound ignorance, that’s what one has to say first, at least of pretty basic things about the American historical narrative,” Blight told The Post. “I mean, it’s one thing to hear it from Trump who, let’s be honest, just really doesn’t know any history and has demonstrated it over and over and over. But Gen. Kelly has a long history in the American military.”
“It was not about slavery, it was about honorable men fighting for honorable causes?” McCurry added. “Well, what was the cause? . . . In 1861, they were very clear on what the causes of the war were. The reason there was no compromise possible was that people in the country could not agree over the wisdom of the continued and expanding enslavement of millions of African Americans.”