The day after President Trump held a combative press conference, suggesting statues of George Washington would be the next to fall if the US continues tearing down monuments to Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee, journalists and government officials received a strange email from the president's personal lawyer. According to the New York Times, John Dowd, the guy who runs Trump's legal team, forwarded a handful of people an email on Wednesday claiming there's "literally no difference between the two men," among other vague comparisons.
Dowd apparently received the email from Jerome Almon, a conspiracy theorist who runs some pretty wild websites, before forwarding it off to a Homeland Security official, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and the Washington Times, according to the New York Daily News. Aside from detailing why "LEE IS NO DIFFERENT THAN WASHINGTON," it reportedly castigates Black Lives Matter for having been "totally infiltrated by terrorist groups."
According to Villanova historian Judith Giesberg, the line of logic used in the email dates back to the early Secessionist movement—but the idea of Lee having "saved America" was incomprehensible.
"It's like a history I don't even recognize," the historian told the Times.
Trump drew the weird parallel between the men who fought to found America and the men who tried to rift it apart in his apparent defense of a protest in Charlottesville, which started out as a rally to preserve a statue of Robert E. Lee and quickly devolved into a chaotic riot between white nationalists and counter-protesters. Since then, he's announced his outright support for preserving Confederate monuments, firing off a series of tweets on Thursday that argued the US is being "ripped apart" by the removal of its "beautiful statues and monuments."
Jim Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, told the Washington Post the equivalency Trump drew between founding fathers and Confederate generals is "unacceptable for the president of the United States."
"Washington and Jefferson were central to the creation of a nation… Lee and Stonewall were not being honored for those types of accomplishment," Grossman told the Post. "They were being honored for creating and defending the Confederacy, which existed for one reason, and that was to protect the right of people to own other people."
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