CNN Commentator: Washington, Jefferson Statues 'Need to Come Down'

August 17, 2017

CNN political commentator Angela Rye said Thursday that statues and monuments to two of America's most prominent Founding Fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, "need to come down."

CNN host Kate Bolduan asked Rye if the country's ongoing discussion about race and white supremacy, spurred by the violence in Charlottesville Va. last weekend, is really about Confederate statues and monuments.

Rye, a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the problem is people are taught American history incorrectly, because they are only told about the "glories" of the country's past, not darker issues like racism.

She added that because George Washington and other great American historical figures owned slaves, they deserved to be called out and recognized not for their accomplishments, but for their title of "slave owner."

"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," Rye said. "He wasn't protecting my freedom. My ancestors weren't deemed human beings to him."

"So to me, I don't care if it's a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue or a Robert E. Lee statue. They all need to come down," Rye said.

Rye added that Americans need to teach other about these figures "so we do not repeat [history], because we are very close to repeating it right now."

Her comments came amid a heated national debate on whether Confederate statues and monuments should be removed or kept intact to preserve part of the country's history and culture.

Another member of the CNN panel on Thursday, Daily Beast editor in chief John Avlon, cut off Rye and told her that she was feeding into the White House's talking points regarding the violence in Charlottesville.

"Yeah, Angela, you've got a problem here," Avlon interjected.

"I'm not finished, John," Rye said.

"You're feeding into Steve Bannon and Trump's talking points," Avlon continued.

"No, no, no. But I'm not, but I'm not, but I'm not, John," Rye said, speaking over Avlon.

"And I'm gonna finish my point," she said. "I'm not feeding into white supremacy; I'm calling out white supremacy for what it is. And sometimes what it is, John, are blind spots. Sometimes what it is, is not acknowledging that this country was built upon a very violent past that resulted in death, and the raping, and the killing of my ancestors."

Rye said she was not going to make a distinction between George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

"So I'm not going to allow us to say it's OK for a Robert E. Lee but not a George Washington [statue]," Rye said. "We need to call it what it is."

"But I'm not giving any deference to George Washington or Robert E. Lee," she added.

Published under: CNN , Racism