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Trump denounces removal of 'beautiful' Confederate statues

  • President Trump says "history and culture of our great country" is "being ripped apart" by the removal of "beautiful" Confederate statutes.
  • "Who's next, Washington, Jefferson?" he asks on Twitter.
  • Although Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, Trump critics note that they helped to establish the country and Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were battling it.

President Donald Trump spoke out Thursday against removing Confederate statutes — fueling the divisive debate he ignited during a widely panned news conference.

In tweets, Trump argued the "history and culture of our great country" is "being ripped apart" by the removal of "beautiful" statutes. He referenced efforts to remove monuments to Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson because of their fighting against the United States for slave-owning states in the Civil War.

"Who's next, Washington, Jefferson?" he asked. "So foolish!"

The comments may not help to stop the tide of bipartisan and corporate criticism of his response to a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that killed one woman and injured many others. Some GOP lawmakers have pointedly denounced Trump's comments since the rally. Top business executives on Wednesday disbanded an advisory council to Trump in order to rebuke his remarks.

In the chaotic news conference Tuesday, Trump blamed "both sides" — the white nationalist rally and protesters demonstrating against it — for the violence.

He also claimed that some of the people participating in the white supremacist rally — which featured swastikas, torches and chants of "Jews will not replace us" — were only against the removal of a statue of Lee.

"You have some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides," Trump said Tuesday. "You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name."

Many critics of the statues argue they stand for white supremacy and people who rebelled against the U.S. at least partly in the name of preserving slavery. Trump on Tuesday questioned whether people would call to remove monuments to the slave-owning Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Historians note that Washington and Jefferson helped to establish the country and the Confederate generals were battling it.

On Wednesday, Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe encouraged localities to remove the Confederate statues and take them "to museums or more appropriate settings."

Baltimore also had Confederate monuments removed in the wee hours of Wednesday morning in the wake of the Charlottesville violence.