Former President Donald Trump issued a statement Wednesday condemning the removal of a 131-year-old statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, calling the Confederate commander "the greatest strategist of them all" and admiring the statue's artwork.
"Just watched as a massive crane took down the magnificent and very famous statue of ‘Robert E. Lee On His Horse’ in Richmond, Virginia," Trump wrote. "It has long been recognized as a beautiful piece of bronze sculpture. To add insult to injury, those who support this ‘taking’ now plan to cut it into three pieces, and throw this work of art into storage prior to its complete desecration.
"Robert E. Lee is considered by many Generals to be the greatest strategist of them all," Trump continued. "President Lincoln wanted him to command the North, in which case the war would have been over in one day. Robert E. Lee chose the other side because of his great love of Virginia, and except for Gettysburg, would have won the war. He should be remembered perhaps as the greatest unifying force after the war was over, ardent in his resolve to bring the North and South together through many means of reconciliation and imploring his soldiers to do their duty in becoming good citizens of this Country."
Our culture is being destroyed…
Trump went on to claim Lee was more skilled than current U.S. generals, writing, "Our culture is being destroyed and our history and heritage, both good and bad, are being extinguished by the Radical Left, and we can't let that happen! If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan, that disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago. What an embarrassment we are suffering because we don't have the genius of a Robert E. Lee!"
Before it was removed Wednesday shortly before 9 a.m., the 21-foot bronze equestrian statue of Lee had overlooked Richmond's prominent Monument Avenue since 1890.
Following the death of George Floyd last summer, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney ordered nearby likenesses of Confederate Gens. JEB Stuart and Stonewall Jackson removed, as well Confederate Naval commander Matthew Fontaine Murray. Protesters had earlier toppled a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Court litigation had delayed the Lee statue's removal because was on state-owned land.
Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va., praised the statue's removal, saying, "This was a long time coming, part of the healing process so Virginia can move forward and be a welcoming state with inclusiveness and diversity." He also maintained that the statue symbolized "more than 400 years of history that we should not be proud of."
Crowds gathered around the statue Wednesday morning, cheering and chanting, "Hey hey hey, goodbye," as a crane removed it from its granite pedestal. Once removed, it was sawn into two pieces for storage, not three, as Trump had indicated.