- The White House had to again address a controversy related to the Civil War.
- Chief of staff John Kelly told Fox News the Civil War happened because the two sides couldn’t come to a compromise.
- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t say whether that compromise was in reference to slavery, and she added that she didn’t think his comments were offensive.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to address another Civil War-related controversy involving the administration on Tuesday after chief of staff John Kelly suggested the bloody war could have been avoided if both sides came to a compromise.
Sanders was pressed on the subject by multiple reporters who wondered if the compromise that Kelly referenced involved slavery, which the war was fought over.
In an interview with Fox News, Kelly said Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was “an honorable man” who “gave up his country to fight for his state,” adding that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to civil war.” The comments echoed remarks from President Donald Trump earlier this year, who openly wondered why the war happened in the first place.
In her first response to Kelly’s comments, Sanders said “all of our leaders have flaws” but “that doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country and certainly can’t erase them from history.”
She was further pressed specifically on the “compromise” Kelly was speaking of.
“What is the compromise that they’re talking about?” one reporter asked. “To leave the southern states slave and the northern states free? What is the compromise that could’ve been made?”
Sanders said she wouldn’t “get into debating the Civil War,” but said “many historians” agree “that a failure of compromise was a cause of the Civil War.”
“There are a lot of historians that think that, and there are a lot of different versions of those compromises,” she said. “I am not going to get up here and re-litigate the Civil War, but there are certainly some historical documentation that many people and there’s pretty strong consensus, people from the left and the right and the North and the South that if some individuals engaged had been willing to come to some compromises on different things, then it may not have occurred.”
Sanders was then pushed by another reporter on whether the administration would “at least acknowledge” that Kelly’s comments “are deeply offensive to some folks and historically inaccurate.”
“No,” Sanders said. “Because as I said before, just because you don’t like history doesn’t mean you can erase it and pretend that it didn’t happen. And I think that’s the point that Gen. Kelly was trying to make.”
She also blamed the media.
“I think the fact that … the media continues to want to make this and push that this is some sort of a racially charged and divided White House,” she said. “Frankly, the only people I see stoking political racism right now are the people who are running ads like the one you saw take place in Virginia earlier this week. That’s the type of thing that I think is really a problem.”
The reference was to an ad published by the Latino Victory Project in the Virginia gubernatorial race. The ad depicted a truck with a Confederate flag and a bumper sticker for Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie chasing down a group of multi-cultural children down a suburban street. Trump recently tweeted that Gillespie “might even save our great statues/heritage!,” a clear reference to the controversy over the removal of monuments to the Confederacy and its prominent members.
While Kelly and Sanders both spoke of a possible compromise to avert the war between the Union and Confederacy, a long series of compromises related to slavery were hashed out between the North and South prior to the outbreak of war. Some of those included the Three-Fifths Compromise, the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
The war then broke out after those compromises amid years of tensions between the northern and southern states. It was fought namely over the issues of slavery and whether Western territories being added to the union would enter as “slave” or “free” states, which had a significant effect on the makeup of Congress. The war between the Confederacy and the Union was, to this day, the bloodiest in US history, and led to the abolition of slavery in the US, freeing millions of slaves in the South.
As she was leaving the lectern on Tuesday, another reporter tried to shout questions related to Kelly’s comments.
“Sarah, was slavery wrong?” a reporter asked. “Does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”
Sanders did not respond.
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