During an interview with Fox News that was aired on Sunday, President Donald Trump discussed the recent efforts by some protesters to take down statues and monuments of Confederate leaders, as well as other American historical figures who had owned slaves.
When Fox and Friends anchor Brian Kilmeade asked Trump what his message was for African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved, Trump said that America had a “great history,” people needed to learn from that history, and “if you don’t understand your history you will go back to it again.”
Kilmeade mentioned past leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who were “brilliant” but also owned slaves.
“So how do we grow as a country and yet not forget our past?” asked Kilmeade.
“You have to understand history, and you have to understand the culture,” Trump replied, saying that we should not take down statues of George Washington, claiming that “half of our country is named after Washington.”
“We have to remember the heritage and the culture of our country,” Trump continued. “Here is the other problem that I have — a lot of these people don’t even know what they are taking down. I see what’s happening on television, and they are ripping down things they have no idea what they are ripping down, but they started off with the Confederates and now go to Ulysses Grant so what is that all about?”
Kilmeade then asked the president for a message to African-Americans.
“Since you have done a lot for the African-American community, what is your message to them when their ancestors were enslaved because of [these leaders who are commemorated on these monuments]?” he asked.
Trump turned what was supposed to be a softball question into a complete mess of an answer, telling Black people to learn US history or risk “going back to it again.”
“My message is that we have a great country, we have the greatest country on Earth,” Trump said. “We have a heritage, we have a history and we should learn from the history, and if you don’t understand your history, you will go back to it again. You will go right back to it. You have to learn. Think of it, you take away that whole era and you’re going to go back to it sometime. People won’t know about it. They’re going to forget about it. It’s okay.”
“Now what I do like, I like the idea of building new statues to people, to great people. People that have done something,” Trump added. And I think that’s okay. But you don’t want to take away our heritage and history and the beauty, in many cases, the beauty, the artistic beauty. Some of the sculptures and some of this work is some of the great — you can go to France, you can go anywhere in the world and you will never see more magnificent work. And that’s a factor. It’s not the biggest factor but it’s a factor.”