Clyburn knocks activists who took down Ulysses S. Grant statue: 'No one was more anti-slavery'

No. 3 House Democrat says protests should focus on those who 'led insurrections against this country and fought to keep people enslaved'

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., told "The Story" Tuesday that activists calling for the removal of statues across the country have gone a step too far by targeting depictions of George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant.

"I have no idea what they know or do not know," Clyburn told host Martha MacCallum. "I know what I know ... and I do know that no one was more anti-slavery than Ulysses S. Grant. Yet, I saw the other day that somebody interpreted his having married into a family of slave owners that he [was] disqualified.

"I could not disagree more," Clyburn added. "I think that he ought to be judged on his own merit."

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Clyburn joined "The Story" hours after Joe Biden broached the subject during his first press conference in 89 days.

"I think all those Confederate monuments to Confederate soldiers and generals, et cetera, who strongly supported secession and the maintenance of slavery, and going to war to do it, I think those statues belong in a museum," Biden said. "They don't belong in public places."

However, Biden also said that "the idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and somebody who was in rebellion and committed treason trying to take down a union to keep slavery, I think there’s a distinction."

"I think the vice president threaded the needle on that pretty well," Clyburn said.

"I pretty much agree ... the fact of the matter is, yes, he [Washington] was a slave owner. But do you remember what happened to his slaves at the end of his reign? He freed them."

Clyburn went on, "Yes, Thomas Jefferson did own slaves. He never fought for the destruction of the country. He never tried to preserve slavery as a way of life in spite of what shortcomings he may have had."

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Without going into specifics, Clyburn said activists should focus on statues of people who "led insurrections against this country and fought to keep people enslaved."

"Just remember," he told MacCallum, " I used to teach this stuff called history. I studied it every day and I know how to differentiate one from the other."