CNN’s Rye: Statues of Washington, Jefferson, and Robert E. Lee ‘All Need to Come Down’

On Thursday’s broadcast of CNN’s “At This Hour,” CNN Political Commentator Angela Rye argued that statues of slave owners, whether they’re of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Robert E. Lee should come down.

CNN Political Analyst and Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief John Avlon who had referred to comparisons between Washington and Robert E. Lee as “idiotic” and stated that Confederates tried to claim Washington. Avlon also argued that there is no comparison between the Confederacy and Washington because Washington tried to unite the country and the Confederacy tore it apart.

Later on, Rye said, “I think that we have to get to the heart of the problem here, and the heart of the problem is the way in which many of us were taught American history. American history is not all glorious. And even though I love John to death, I couldn’t disagree more about George Washington. George Washington was a slave owner. And we need to call slave owners out for what they are, whether we think they were protecting American freedom or not. He wasn’t protecting my freedom. I wasn’t someone who, my ancestors weren’t deemed human beings to him. And so, to me, I don’t care if it’s a George Washington statue or Thomas Jefferson statue or a Robert E. Lee statue, they all need to come down. … And I’m not saying that they don’t deserve to be taught about. We definitely need to learn about it so that we don’t repeat it. Because we’re very close to repeating it right now. But I’m not giving any deference to George Washington or to Robert E. Lee.”

Avlon countered that Rye is polarizing the conversation in the manner that President Trump wants. He continued that while the Founders were slave owners, it’s wrong to morally compare the Founders to the Confederacy.

Rye denied that she made this comparison, and Avlon responded that he did.

Journalist Farai Chidyea argued that she considers Washington a hero, but he also pursued his runaway slave. She continued by saying that Washington is a “complex” figure, heroes have nuance, and no heroes are perfect. She also stated that she doesn’t think Washington and Lee are the same and that President Trump is just using history to give talking points that white supremacists will like.

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