Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said Tuesday that he is supporting a petition to oppose “woke politically correct liberals” who want to remove portraits of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from West Point.
“What does bother me is when you have woke, politically correct liberals who are trying to erase history,” Cotton told Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” during an interview about America’s storied army college potentially removing portraits of and renaming buildings commemorating Lee.
“West Point is not just a military academy. It is, essentially, a museum to the United States Army,” Cotton said. “And the cadets there need to learn about their history. That’s why they have a line of portraits of every superintendent of West Point. Robert E. Lee was one of those superintendents, from 1852 to 1855.” (RELATED: Trump Reads List Of Statues Commission Wants Removed From Washington — Then Throws Away Letter)
“Are we going to take that painting down and pretend that he wasn’t a superintendent? When he was still an officer in the United States Army?” Cotton asked.
The senator also referenced two “grand portraits of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee” that hang in the West Point library and depict the commanding generals of the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.
“Fortunately, U.S. Grant won, but are we going to take down the Lee portrait so that when cadets are studying that library, they don’t know who U.S. Grant opposed, some fictitious opponent, who can’t be named, like a Harry Potter villain?” Cotton asked.
He argued that if liberals learned “a little more history maybe they would realize” that Black Lives Matter supporters, Marxists and critical race theorists sound a great deal like the 19th century Democratic South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun, who defended slavery.
“Because they always reduce people to the color of their skin — with nothing but their race. They repudiate the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln,” said Cotton.
Citing the summer protests that resulted in the toppling of many historical monuments, Cotton stated, “They started tearing down statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, but pretty quickly, they went on to statues of [George] Washington and Andrew Jackson and U.S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln, and when you’re tearing down statues of Lincoln and U.S. Grant, it’s not about the Confederacy or the Civil War, it’s because you hate America.” (RELATED: Trump Calls Decision To Remove Theodore Roosevelt Statue ‘Ridiculous’)
President-elect Joe Biden has said that he supports the removal of Confederate statues but not that of national leaders like Washington and Jefferson. In 1975 as a United States senator from Delaware, Biden voted to restore Lee’s U.S. citizenship that had been stripped from him for his contributions to the Confederacy.