Following the white supremacist rally to protest the removal of the Lee statue in Charlottesville that ended in the death of a 32-year-old woman, the appropriateness of displaying Confederate memorabilia has sparked intense scrutiny, primarily from Democrats. Now a Republican congressman is calling for the removal of confederate monuments from the U.S. Capitol.
“Confederate monuments in the U.S. Capitol should either be removed from the building and relocated to a museum or battlefield, or be appropriately contextualized as a symbol of slavery,” Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said Thursday, The Hill reported.
“When they’re in the Capitol, they’re almost in a place of reverence. And I don’t think that we should revere what those guys stood for. I think the right side won the war,” Rooney told the publication in an interview.
Rooney joins a growing number of lawmakers calling for the removal of Confederate statues from the Capitol — a campaign backed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) plans to introduce legislation in the Senate that would do just that.
A spokesperson for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the decision should be left up to the states. Under the current rules, each of the 50 states can display two statues in the U.S. Capitol. Those statues can be replaced by the governors and legislatures of those states.
There are at least nine Confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol, including one of Lee.
“If the context was right in describing who he was and what he was fighting for, so people understand that he was fighting to keep slavery as part of this country — I guess as long as it’s put in context — “It’s almost like he’s an idol and I don’t think that that’s right,” Rooney said.
President Trump on Thursday took to Twitter to defend the statues, calling them “beautiful” and repeating an argument he made during a shocking and bellicose press conference on Tuesday during which he claimed that memorials to George Washington would be the next to be torn down.
Rooney, who represents Florida but was born in Pennsylvania, insisted that he does not support the destruction of the statues.
“I don’t think you should erase what your history is, good or bad,” he said. “I don’t want to see those statues destroyed — but I think there’s a better place for them in a place that’s not a place of reverence. I don’t know where that is, whether it be a museum or on a battlefield or something like that.”
He added: “But when you put a statute like that in a Capitol or in a town square, then it’s almost like you’re idolizing that person or that cause or that flag — and that’s wrong, I think.”
Multiple cities in the South — including Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy, and Lexington, Ky. — are contemplating the removal of Confederate monuments. In other cities, like Leesburg, Va. and Durham, N.C., statues have been torn down.