GOP governor's nominee quits historic resources board after defending Southern secession

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's nominee to the state's board of historic resources resigned after making offensive and historically inaccurate statements about the Civil War and slavery.

Ann McLean, a Richmond historian and founder of Hunter Classical Christian School, was tapped by the Republican governor last month to join the board, but comments she made in an interview last year showed her defending the continued display of Confederate monuments, reported WRIC-TV.

“I think that the Southerners knew that their story of why they fought the Civil War was not being told correctly,” McLean told radio host John Reid in December on WRVA radio. “Fake news, or false narratives, are not new, and this whole tragedy is that these statues were built to tell the true story of the American South to people 500 years from now. But we have forces right here 150 years later that want to destroy the evidence of that story, and you know, the fight for sovereignty of each state.”

McLean returned to Reid's program following her nomination to the state board and justified Southern secession -- which states explicitly stated at the time was intended to preserve slavery and white supremacy -- and compared the Civil War to preserve the Union to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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“Secession was not treason," McLean said. "Everyone was allowed, each state was allowed to secede. We all had seceded from Britain, so that’s what, each state was like its own country, so Lee considered Virginia his country and, you know, invasion, just like we see, you know, Russia invading Ukraine, invading a new territory was wrong."

The Constitution did not expressly forbid secession, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis was never tried for treason due to a variety of political and legal reasons, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1869 that secession was unconstitutional.

"So many people want to just flatten the whole Civil War to slavery and, of course, we know slavery is not good," McLean added, "but I think the South, I think a lot of slavery would’ve been outlawed in the South within five to 10 years but they wanted to do it on their own time.”

McLean also told The Virginia Star that the state should preserve its "wonderful" Confederate heritage, and Youngkin began to publicly distance himself from his nominee.

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“We’re having a discussion about whether she can represent us well," the governor said last week.

By Tuesday, however, a Youngkin spokesperson confirmed that McLean had resigned from the historic resources board.

“After discussion about our Administration’s goals and priorities and Dr. McLean’s, Dr. McLean resigned from the Board of Historic Resources effective August 1, 2022,” said spokeswoman Macaulay Porter in a text message. “The Governor has made his disagreement with her prior comments clear, and the Administration is focused on ensuring that our commonwealth’s rich history and resources are preserved, the best and the worst, for future generations of Virginians and visitors.”