President Donald Trump on Thursday denounced the removal of monuments to Confederate figures as “sad” and “so foolish,” days after white supremacists and neo-Nazis took to Charlottesville, Virginia, to violently protest the planned removal of a statue of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it.”
Trump’s tweets came as he continued to face criticism for comments he made on Tuesday in which he blamed “both sides” of the Charlottesville protests — the white supremacists and those protesting against them — for the violence that took hold of that small Virginia city. While Trump condemned the neo-Nazi and white supremacists who protested, he insisted there were “very fine people” among those protesting the removal of Lee’s statue in Charlottesville.
Echoing his comments on Tuesday, Trump tweeted Thursday that the removal of Confederate statues could lead to the removal of monuments to the US’s founding fathers.
“Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!” Trump tweeted. “Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
Trump’s decision to side with those opposed to removing Confederate monuments — even days after white supremacists and neo-Nazis protested the same cause — signaled that he was increasingly confident that he had reacted appropriately in a way that would bolster his standing with his core supporters. The President has faced sagging approval ratings for months, but has maintained fervent support among his political base.
The tweets also came as Trump continued to face a torrent of criticism for his remarks, with several prominent Republican leaders admonishing Trump for his response.
Trump fired back against some of those criticizing him Thursday morning, lashing out against the news media and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina who slammed Trump for expressing a “moral equivalency” between the white supremacists and those who took to the streets to counter their racist, anti-Semitic rally.
Trump rebuked Graham for what he termed a “disgusting lie” and forcefully reminded Graham that he had solidly defeated him in the South Carolina Republican primary 18 months earlier.
In his tweet slamming the news media, Trump argued the media “totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry etc.”
Trump’s rejection of the removal of Confederate monuments also came just a few hours after a CBS News poll showed that while a majority of Americans disapproved of Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, two-thirds of Republicans approved of his response. The poll, however, was conducted in part before Trump’s impromptu news conference on Tuesday.