President Donald Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, has described Confederate General Robert E. Lee as an "honorable man."
Kelly's comments, which were similar to those made by Trump in an August speech, came during an interview with Fox News on Oct. 30.
"I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man," said Kelly, according to ABC News. "He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it's different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand."
Kelly did not explain what compromises could have averted the conflict.
Following the eruption of violence at a Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstration involving white supremacists in August, calls grew in a number of cities across the country for the removal of Confederate statues. The University of Texas at Austin removed a statue of Lee and other monuments to Confederate generals.
Trump opposed such decisions.
"This week it's Robert E. Lee," Trump said on Aug. 15. "I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
Kelly's remarks Oct. 30 prompted a swift response from several historians.
"That statement could have been given by [former Confederate general] Jubal Early in 1880," history professor Stephanie McCurry told The Washington Post.
"What's so strange about this statement is how closely it tracks or resembles the view of the Civil War that the South had finally got the nation to embrace by the early 20th century," McCurry added. "It's the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War. I mean, it tracks all of the major talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War."
David Blight, a professor at Yale University, challenged all of the arguments made by Kelly.
"This is profound ignorance, that's what one has to say first, at least of pretty basic things about the American historical narrative," Blight told the Post. "I mean, it's one thing to hear it from Trump, who, let's be honest, just really doesn't know any history and has demonstrated it over and over and over. But General Kelly has a long history in the American military."
Sources: ABC News, The Washington post / Featured Image: U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Gage Skidmore/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons, Billy Hathorn/Wikimedia Commons