At a wild, defensive press conference on Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump raised the question as to whether protests against statues honoring Confederate soldiers would end up some day morphing into protests against monuments to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.
For those watching Fox News the night before, the talking point might have sounded familiar.
"This week it is Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down," Trump said as he fielded questions from reporters, mostly about his response to this weekend's protests and violence in Charlottesville. "I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
Trump, speaking from Trump Tower in New York, noted that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners.
It's not clear if the theory was Trump's own or if a line he'd heard elsewhere. (A White House spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.) The talking point, which has seen some action on the right wing, was featured the prior night on the airwaves of Fox News, which the president has lauded as one of his favorite mainstream media outlets.
On her show Monday evening, Fox host Martha MacCallum discussed with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich the criticisms that the president was slow to condemn white supremacists in his response to Charlottesville. The conversation then turned to an announcement from Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, that he would seek to remove two Confederate statues from a public building — and whether it would end there, with Confederate statues.
"Where are you going to stop it?' Gingrich said. "What if you weren't sensitive enough to the Holocaust — we should take down all the statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? You could make an argument for that."
"You could make an argument for Thomas Jefferson or George Washington," MacCallum interjected. "Are you going to change the name of the Washington Monument?"
Gingrich then noted that both were slave owners.
"Absolutely, that's my point," MacCallum responds.
It's certainly not the first time that point has been made in conservative circles, to be sure. And it's far from certain that Trump gleaned the remark from this segment. Still, Trump has a well-documented fondness for Fox News — particularly its morning show Fox & Friends — and the network is said to make up a large part of his media diet.
Steven Perlberg is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His PGP fingerprint is 0ACB FA3B AC49 D43C 79C4 8DE5 3C06 7521 F4EC 3AA5
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