Mayor of Richmond calls Confederate monuments 'the fake news of their time'


On 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper took a deep dive into the debate over the removal of Confederate monuments, research that, Cooper says, CBS began in 2017.

During his report, Cooper sat down with Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond, Va., who, during the recent protests over the future of the city’s Monument Avenue, made it clear he wants the statues taken down.

"The monuments are just a symbol of the effort to ensure African Americans stayed, maybe not in physical bondage, but in bondage in political and economically in this country and in this city," said Stoney, who added, "Those who chose to erect those monuments, and the figures who are glorified in those monuments, they made some serious attempts to ensure that people who look like me would never hold any political office, ever, in Virginia."

Cooper asked Stoney if, following the incident in Charlottesville when white nationalists clashed with protesters over the removal of a Confederate statue, he was surprised by how many people were willing to come out and show their true colors, to which Stoney responded, "I think it woke a lot of people up, not just here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but around the country."

"It is, for me, the greatest example of nostalgia masquerading as history. It's the fake news of their time," stated Stoney.

Cooper also sat down with former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu who, back in 2017, made the controversial decision to remove four Confederate monuments, and shared with Cooper the dangerous risks that came with it.

While Cooper described the scene as looking "like a military operation," due to the fact that construction crews wore bullet proof helmets and vests, and police snipers were stationed on rooftops nearby, Landrieu shared that it was impossible to find a local company that would take on the monumental job. "When we put the thing out to bid, the one contractor that showed up had his life threatened. He had his car bombed," revealed Landrieu. "His car was actually fire-bombed. Death threats were coming in and, so, I couldn't find a crane. I could not find a damn crane."

Landrieu did eventually find a contractor out of state to take down the four monuments, and the former mayor more than stands by his decision.

"In a city that I represent, that's 67 percent African American, to have a young African American girl pass by that statue and look at it every day, I ask myself, 'Am I really preparing for her a really good future? Is she feeling like she's getting lifted up by the government, or is she being put down?' I mean, I think the answer's pretty clear. Really, what these monuments were, were a lie," stated Landrieu. Asked to clarify, Landrieu explained, "On the sense that Robert E. Lee was used as an example, to send a message to the rest of the country, and to all the people that lived here, that the confederacy was a noble cause. And that's just not true."

Finally, Landrieu stated, "I really did want to make a definitive statement, as a white man from the south, as the Mayor of a major American city at the dawning of the 21st century, that it's not unclear anymore about what the Civil War was about, and who won, and what the values are that we should really revere."

However, not all agree with the removal of confederate monuments, hence the debate across the country. Professor William J. Cooper, a former professor of history at Louisiana State University for 46 years, told Anderson Cooper that removing the monuments is a mistake and that they are not, in fact, a "false history."

"The monument was put up there by real people who had real beliefs. Maybe we don't like their beliefs. But one of the things that bothers me most as a historian is what I call 'Presentism,' judging the past by the present. Figuring that we are the only moral people, that nobody else could be moral if they didn't think like we think," said the former professor, who also said that the monuments "do celebrate white supremacy." However, removing the monuments is a "slippery slope."

"Should Mount Vernon be up today? Should we go burn Monticello down tomorrow? Certainly Thomas Jefferson believed in white supremacy," said William Cooper.

60 Minutes airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBS.

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