Georgetown University sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson said Wednesday on CNN that the antifa movement is trying to "preserve the fabric of America."
CNN host Poppy Harlow asked Dyson to respond to President Donald Trump's comments during a press conference Tuesday on removing Confederate monuments. The president, while addressing criticism of his response to the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend, argued that removing Confederate statues erases the country's history and culture. He wondered if activists will next want to remove monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they were slave owners.
"Michael, the president said that we are—about the monuments, about the confederate monuments yesterday—that we are trying to erase, we being the American people, it is trying to erase history, change culture, by taking them down," Harlow said to Dyson. "That sort of completely ignores the fact that they are representing a sanitized, fictionalized history."
"What did you make of how the president addressed these monuments yesterday?" she asked.
Dyson gave a long response in which he called Trump "lethally ignorant" and said the history of the Confederacy perpetuates the "mythology of white supremacy."
"This man is lethally ignorant, incapable of even having a kindergartner's comprehension of race," Dyson said. "For those who say look, the Confederacy is about history and heritage, it is. The history and heritage of racism! The history and heritage of bigotry. Building their sense of biological and in many cases theological and national identity upon a lie, a mythology of white supremacy."
Dyson added that groups like Black Lives Matter and the antifa movement are interested in "preserving the fabric of America."
"The people that we claim, Black Lives Matter, the antifa movement, and so on, are interested in preserving the fabric of America," Dyson said. "Mr. Miller says again that there was violence there, but the problem is, to equate that violence in reaction to the bigotry with the bigotry itself is to misunderstand the fact that when you go to cancer treatment, the radiation is tough treatment, but it is meant to remove the cancer."
Antifa refers to an anti-fascist, leftist movement that sometimes uses violence in protests to further its goals. Over the weekend, antifa protesters assaulted at least two reporters. One antifa group blamed a reporter in Richmond, Va., who had to receive staples in his head at the hospital, for "perpetuating rape culture" because they did not give the journalist consent to film them.
Dyson ended his answer by saying Trump lacks the right moral vision and is the most incompetent president in history.
"So what he fails to understand and what the president especially fails to understand is that you are complicit with the worst currents of bigotry in this country when you try to draw a false equivalence between secessionists, racists, and confederate defenders and bigots and neo Nazis, and African American and white people and others who have defended the rights of this nation to really seek a path of healing beyond the consternation we see now," Dyson said.
"That's the problem with this president: he ain't got the right moral vision; he doesn't have the right words to express that moral vision and he lacks an understanding of American history," Dyson continued. "This is the most illiterate, incompetent president in the history of this nation and it shows, and it tells on him in the midst of this racial crisis where he is incapable of showing basic decent compassion for those who are vulnerable and who are victims of white supremacy in this country."