Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., pushed back on White House chief of staff John Kelly’s claim the Civil War started because of a "lack of an ability to compromise,” saying Tuesday there “was no compromise to make.”
“We need to stop relitigating and referencing the Civil War as if there was some moral conundrum,” Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, told CBS News. “There was no compromise to make — only a choice between continuing slavery and ending it. We need to move forward together, instead of letting the divisions of the past continue to force us apart.”
During an interview on Fox News on Monday night, Kelly was asked about efforts to remove Confederate statues, an issue that was raised again after white nationalist groups clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va., in August.
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today,” Kelly said. “But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
Kelly has since been criticized for his comments, and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond, D-La., said Kelly "needs a history lesson."
But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the White House chief of staff during Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
“All of our leaders have flaws,” she told reporters. “Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, Kennedy—that doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country, and it certainly can’t erase them from our history. And General Kelly was simply making the point that just because history isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that it’s not our history.”