Ryan Zinke reminds America where the Trump administration really stands on white supremacist treason.
The Trump administration’s white supremacist sympathies became clear once again when Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke offered bizarre praise of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — claiming that a leader of a treasonous rebellion against the United States actually helped “form a more perfect union.”
While delivering remarks Saturday at the dedication of Kentucky’s Camp Nelson as a national monument, Zinke launched into a digression about where the memorials to Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. are located in relation to the Arlington House memorial to Lee.
“I like to think that Lincoln doesn’t have his back to General Lee,” Zinke said. “He’s in front of him. There’s a difference. The same way that Martin Luther King doesn’t have his back to Lincoln — he’s in front of Lincoln, as we march together to form a more perfect union.”
NAACP spokesman Malik Russell denounced Zinke’s remarks in a statement to The Huffington Post:
“To attempt to link Lee’s achievements for the Confederacy which embraced White Supremacy to that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a slight oversight but a huge historical misappropriation that the descendants of enslaved Africans cannot accept or tolerate,” Malik Russell, an NAACP spokesman, said in an email. “Dr. King’s work united our nation and bent the moral arc toward justice, while General Lee acquiesced to the ignoble norms of his time.”
As Russell notes, Lee fought to preserve slavery and to literally defeat the Union — which is diametrically opposed to the causes President Lincoln and Dr. King fought for.
Zinke has already gone on record opposing the removal of Confederate monuments, arguing that such removals are a “slippery slope.”
In the wake of the white supremacist murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Trump defended Confederate monuments and compared Lee to George Washington — along with his more infamous remarks about how “very fine people” were among the neo-Nazi protesters.
A week later, Trump defended Confederate monuments at a rally in Phoenix, telling the crowd that people who favor taking down these monuments to white supremacy “are trying to take away our history and our heritage.”
Other Trump administration officials have also expressed praise or sympathy for the Confederacy.
Trump chief of staff John Kelly praised Lee as “an honorable man,” and falsely asserted that the Civil War was the result of a “failure to compromise.”
At a White House briefing following Kelly’s remarks, Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to condemn slavery, and called veteran White House correspondent April Ryan “disgusting” for asking the question.
The Trump team’s defense of the Confederacy is just one example of its overt racism. But it’s an important one, because it sends a clear signal to white supremacists that this administration stands with them.
Published with permission of The American Independent.