Trump’s Message to African-Americans Unhappy With Monuments to Slave Owners: ‘You Have to Learn’ History


President Donald Trump appeared in a Fox News Channel special Sunday evening with Brian Kilmeade and discussed the recent efforts by protesters to take down statues and monuments of Confederate leaders, as well as other American historical figures who had owned slaves. When Kilmeade asked Trump what his message was for African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved, Trump said that America had a “great history,” people needed to learn from that history, and “if you don’t understand your history you will go back to it again.”

Kilmeade mentioned past leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who were “brilliant” but also owned slaves.

“So how do we grow as a country and yet not forget our past?” asked Kilmeade.

“You have to understand history, and you have to understand the culture,” Trump replied, saying that we should not take down statues of George Washington, noting that “half of our country is named after Washington.”

“We have to remember the heritage and the culture of our country,” Trump continued. “Here is the other problem that I have — a lot of these people don’t even know what they are taking down. I see what’s happening on television, and they are ripping down things they have no idea what they are ripping down, but they started off with the Confederates and now go to Ulysses Grant so what is that all about?”

Kilmeade then asked Trump for a message to African-Americans. “Since you have done a lot for the African-American community, what is your message to them when their ancestors were enslaved because of [these leaders who are commemorated on these monuments]?”

Trump’s answer, to what should have been a softball question, was to offer advice that many Blacks may not find helpful or reassuring: that they need to learn history.

He talked about how America is the “greatest country on Earth,” and we have a heritage and a history, and say it was important to learn from that history, or “if you don’t understand your history, you will go back to it again.”

It’s not clear if the president meant that Blacks who did not learn history would go back into slavery or what fate would await them, but he did repeatedly emphasize the importance of heritage and learning history — things he has often said before in interviews and tweets.

Kilmeade did not follow up to Trump’s response and switched topics.

A transcript of Trump’s full answer to the question:

My message is that we have a great country, we have the greatest country on Earth. We have a heritage, we have a history and we should learn from the history, and if you don’t understand your history, you will go back to it again. You will go right back to it. You have to learn. Think of it, you take away that whole era and you’re going to go back to it sometime. People won’t know about it. They’re going to forget about it. It’s okay.

Now what I do like, I like the idea of building new statues to people, to great people. People that have done something. And I think that’s okay.

But you don’t want to take away our heritage and history and the beauty, in many cases, the beauty, the artistic beauty. Some of the sculptures and some of this work is some of the great — you can go to France, you can go anywhere in the world and you will never see more magnificent work. And that’s a factor. It’s not the biggest factor but it’s a factor.

The president’s rambling answer to what, again, should have been a softball question, was reminiscent of an answer he gave to another Fox News host, Sean Hannity, earlier this week.

Hannity had asked Trump what his priorities would be if he were elected to a second term, and Trump failed to name even one, instead chatting about how he had only visited Washington a few times before becoming president but now he knew a lot of people, and other random topics unrelated to the question.

Like Kilmeade, Hannity also failed to ask for any sort of clarification or follow up.

Watch the video via Fox News, above.

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