Rep. Clyburn slams Trump's praise for Robert E. Lee

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn sharply rebuked President Trump’s praise of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who the president praised as a “great general,” but the Democrat called a “loser.”

“The fact of the matter is, Robert E. Lee was a great tactician, was not a great person,” said Clyburn, of South Carolina, on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “Robert E. Lee was a slave owner and a brutal slave master. Thankfully, he lost that war and I find it kind of interesting the president is now glorifying a loser. He always said that he hated losers. Robert E. Lee was a loser.”

“And even if you could get beyond that at the end of the Civil War,” he continued, “Robert E. Lee asked all of his comrades to lay down their guns and to furl those Confederate flags, and if my memory serves and put them in your attics, so if the president is going to glorify Robert E. Lee, let's at least be consistent about it.”

After former Vice President Joe Biden announced his presidential bid Thursday with a video directly lambasting the president’s response to the white nationalists rally in Charlottesville, Va., Trump defended his “there were very fine people on both sides” comment.

“I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general, whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals,” he said.

“People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee,” Trump also said. “Everybody knows that.”

But Biden sharply criticized Trump’s comments about the violence that ensued at the white nationalist rally, which left one young woman, a counterprotester, dead.

"With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it," Biden said in his video. "And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I'd ever seen in my lifetime."

He also declared the 2020 election a "battle for the soul of this nation."

Clyburn, who represents Charleston, S.C., where nine were killed in a church shooting, said Biden is the frontrunner to challenge Trump in 2020.

"I have talked to people here in South Carolina and I believe that at this point in time, Joe Biden is probably the leader,” he said. “The question is whether or not he can maintain his lead.”

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Dallas removes Robert E. Lee statue
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Dallas removes Robert E. Lee statue
People watch the removal of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's statue in Dallas, Texas, U.S., September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rex Curry
Police officers move people back from the area where Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed in Dallas, Texas, U.S., September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rex Curry
Workers remove the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Dallas, Texas, U.S., September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rex Curry
City of Dallas removes the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Dallas, Texas, U.S., September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rex Curry
TOPSHOT - Workers remove a statue of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, Texas, on September 14, 2017. Confederate monuments of Civil War figures, who fought against the Union Army in an attempt to preserve slavery, have become central to the debate surrounding white supremacists and America's past. New momentum has built to remove such monuments after a violent white supremacist gathering in Virginia in support of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. / AFP PHOTO / Laura Buckman/AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers remove a statue of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, Texas, on September 14, 2017. Confederate monuments of Civil War figures, who fought against the Union Army in an attempt to preserve slavery, have become central to the debate surrounding white supremacists and America's past. New momentum has built to remove such monuments after a violent white supremacist gathering in Virginia in support of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. / AFP PHOTO / Laura Buckman/AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Dallas police stand guard as workers remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, Texas, on September 14, 2017. Confederate monuments of Civil War figures, who fought against the Union Army in an attempt to preserve slavery, have become central to the debate surrounding white supremacists and America's past. New momentum has built to remove such monuments after a violent white supremacist gathering in Virginia in support of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. / AFP PHOTO / Laura Buckman/AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Dallas police stand guard as workers prepare to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, Texas, on September 14, 2017. Confederate monuments of Civil War figures, who fought against the Union Army in an attempt to preserve slavery, have become central to the debate surrounding white supremacists and America's past. New momentum has built to remove such monuments after a violent white supremacist gathering in Virginia in support of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. / AFP PHOTO / Laura Buckman/AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers prepare to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, Texas, on September 14, 2017. Confederate monuments of Civil War figures, who fought against the Union Army in an attempt to preserve slavery, have become central to the debate surrounding white supremacists and America's past. New momentum has built to remove such monuments after a violent white supremacist gathering in Virginia in support of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. / AFP PHOTO / Laura Buckman/AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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