Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck said on Monday that he abhorred racism but he insisted that Civil War statues that remind so many of slavery in the United States should be left alone.
On Monday, President Donald Trump spoke out against the white supremacist groups he had failed to mention in his initial remarks about the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. Those clashes came after a group of white nationalists gathered in town to demonstrate against the remove of a statue of Confederate War General Robert E. Lee.
Whitbeck told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the one counter-protester who was killed and 20 others who were injured by an alleged white nationalist “was a tragedy beyond anything.”
“You can’t emphatically enough denounce these groups,” Whitbeck remarked. “I mean, you have to be as unequivocal as you can be. Our party has always stood for equal justice. And our Republican elected officials and our party leaders have been saying this message all along as Americans, as Virginians.”
Blitzer reminded the state GOP chair that the hate groups have been drawn to Charlottesville due to the pending removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
“That has become a big issue. Where do you stand?” Blitzer asked. “Where does the Republican Party of Virginia stand on that Robert E. Lee statue?”
“I think our nominee for governor, Ed Gillespie, has spoken about this,” Whitbeck stuttered. “And we stand will our nominee 100 percent.”
“What is he saying?” Blitzer wondered.
“He has said he supports the history of Virginia in all its forms,” Whitbeck admitted. “You can’t just eradicate the bad parts of our history by just taking down statues. I think he’s right.”
“These people were not there about a statue,” he added. “They were there to spread their philosophy of hate and bigotry and racism. And it’s up to all of us in Virginia and Democrats and independents to stand against it 100 percent.”
“So you don’t think that statue should come down?” Blitzer pressed.
“I don’t think the statue should come down,” Whitbeck replied. “But that’s not the issue. The issue is really we have to stop this hatred. And I feel like we’re getting away from that when we talk about things like Confederate statues.”
Watch the video below from CNN.