White House Chief of Staff John Kelly says Robert E. Lee was an 'honorable man', not being able to compromise led to Civil War

 

  • White House chief of staff John Kelly talked about the historical significance of certain US monuments in an interview on Monday.
  • Kelly called Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee an "honorable man" and said that the "lack of an ability to compromise led to civil war."


White House chief of staff John Kelly raised eyebrows when he discussed the historical context of controversial monuments dedicated to Confederate figures in the US Civil War.

Speaking to Fox News' Laura Ingraham on Monday, Kelly discussed the controversy surrounding the removal of plaques that honored Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee and George Washington. The plaques, which came in a set, were hung inside a church in 1870 and are scheduled to be removed following the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"History is history," said Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general. "There's certain things in history that were not so good, and other things that were very, very good."

"I think we make a mistake though, and as a society, and certainly as individuals when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong, and go back 100, 200, 300 years," he continued.

RELATED: John Kelly in his White House role

24 PHOTOS
John Kelly in his White House role
See Gallery
John Kelly in his White House role
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly speaks on his phone in a hallway outside the room where U.S. President Donald Trump was meeting with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly delivers speech at the Secretary of Interior Building in Mexico City, Mexico, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) before a briefing on hurricane relief efforts in a hangar at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks about immigration reform at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner look on as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks before meeting with Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his delegation at the White House in Washington, U.S. September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies before a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks about border security during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly delivers a statement accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico City, Mexico February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) and First Lady Melania Trump (lower right) listen as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (R) shows the time to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (L) as they attend a session on reforming the United Nations at U.N. Headquarters in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (C) stands in an adjacent cabin as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the press cabin aboard Air Force One on his way to Washington after viewing damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida, U.S. September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens as U.S. President Donald Trump makes remarks to reporters before meeting with a bipartisan group of members of Congress at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (R) attend Kuwait's Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and U.S. President Donald Trump's news conference after their meetings at the White House in Washington, U.S. September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly stands before a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (R) arrives with fellow staff to board Air Force One with U.S. President Trump for travel to New Jersey from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly looks down at his phone as he boards Air Force One in Hagerstown, Maryland, U.S., hours after it was announced that Trump Senior Adviser Steve Bannon left the administration August 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly looks on as he listens to Mexico's Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong (not pictured) delivering a joint message at the Secretary of Interior Building in Mexico City, Mexico, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly arrives to Secretary of Interior Building before addressing the media, in Mexico City, Mexico, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly takes questions from the media while addressing the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly leans on the Resolute Desk during a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly speaks during a daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Monuments dedicated to Lee, particularly the statue in Charlottesville that attracted a following from white nationalists, have been viewed unfavorably as civil rights groups have become more vocal on the racial implications behind the Confederacy's narrative.

"It's inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then," Kelly said. "I think it's very, very dangerous. And it shows you how much of a lack of appreciation of history, and what history is."

"I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man," he continued. "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."

RELATED: Confederate monuments that still remain across the country

10 PHOTOS
Confederate monuments that still remain across the country
See Gallery
Confederate monuments that still remain across the country
A bronze statue, titled the Confederate SoldieR is viewed in downtown Alexandria, Virginia, on August 14, 2017. He stands in the middle of the street, his back to the nation's capital as he gazes southwards towards the bloody battlefields of the Civil War. Erected nearly 130 years ago, the bronze statue of an unarmed Confederate soldier sits at a busy intersection in Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington,DC.The Alexandria statue, known as 'Appomattox,' is one of hundreds of similar monuments across the American South honoring the Confederate dead.Debate over what to do with these controversial symbols of the Confederacy has been simmering for years and is likely to intensify after boiling over into bloodshed at the weekend. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. Richards / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CHRIS LEFKOW- 'Pressure builds to remove Confederate statues following clashes over plans to pull down a monument to rebel commander Robert E. Lee in a Virginia city' (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A monument to former U.S. Vice President and Confederate General John Cabell Breckinridge stands outside the Old Courthouse in Lexington, Ky., U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 04: A view of the Jefferson Davis monument on May 4, 2017 in New Orleans, Loiusiana. The Louisiana House committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs voted Wednesday to advance House Bill 71 that would forbid the removal of Confederate monuments in Louisiana as the City Council in New Orleans tries to move three statues of Confederate luminaries from public spaces and into museums. Protests that have at times turned violent have erupted at the site of the Jefferson Davis Monument after the Battle at Liberty Place monument was taken down in the middle of the night on April 24. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A general view of the Confederate monument in Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia - completed in 1879 the monument is dedicated to those who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. (Photo by Epics/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, USA - MAY 7, 2017: A person in opposition to the removal of monuments to the Confederacy holds confederate flags against the Robert E. Lee statue in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Annie Flanagan for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE - DECEMBER 31: Belle Kinney's Confederate Women's Monument in War Memorial Plaza on December 31, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
Farmville, VA - January 12 : A confederate monument stands across the street from Ruffner Hall at Longwood University. University President, W. Taylor Reveley IV is fond of saying the civil war ended at one end of Longwood's campus, and the modern civil rights era begin at the other end of campus. (Photo by Norm Shafer/ For The Washington Post via Getty Images).
A memorial to Confederate soldiers stands on the banks of the Ohio River in Brandenburg, Kentucky, U.S. May 29, 2017. The memorial was recently removed from the campus of the University of Louisville. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
A monument of Robert E. Lee, who was a general in the Confederate Army, is removed in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Kelly continued to suggest that the Civil War was initiated after the North and South failed to come to a compromise.

"But the lack of an ability to compromise led to civil war," Kelly said. "And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand."

Kelly's statement echoed President Donald Trump's condemnation of "both sides" following the deadly protest in Charlottesville. Trump's comments attracted critics when he coined the term "alt-left" for counter-protestors protesting against white nationalists, who were widely viewed as the antagonizing force in the riots.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides," Trump said at a press conference in August. "On many sides."

NOW WATCH: A North Korean defector trekked 6,000 miles on crutches to flee — now he helps others escape

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Trump said Kelly was 'so offended' that Rep. Wilson was listening to Trump's call with Gold Star widow

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.