Trump calls for black voters to 'honour' him with their support then says Confederate leader Robert E Lee was a 'great general'

Trump has previously defended statues of Confederate leaders, most notably after the Charlottesville protests last year

Saturday 13 October 2018 13:01
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Trump calls for black voters to 'honour' him with their support then says Confederate leader Robert E Lee was a ‘great general’

Donald Trump has called a leader of the US Civil War Confederate army a “great general” – minutes after asking for black voters to support him.

The US president praised Robert E Lee, who headed the military effort of the south and whose support of slavery has made his legacy highly controversial, during a rally in the city of Lebanon, Ohio, on Friday.

It came during an anecdote about the Ohio-born former president Ulysses S Grant.

“Robert E Lee was winning battle after battle after battle,” said Mr Trump. “And Abraham Lincoln came home. He said, ‘I can’t beat Robert E Lee’. They said to Lincoln, ‘You can’t use [Grant] anymore, he’s an alcoholic.’ And Lincoln said, ‘I don’t care if he’s an alcoholic, frankly, give me six or seven more just like him.’ He started to win.”

General Lee eventually surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House in 1865, effectively bringing an end to the war.

For decades he was praised for his actions after the surrender, and credited with helping to build stability following the conflict. He refused to take part in a guerrilla war which many on the south called for and instead encouraged former combatants to support a reconciled and united America. He also opposed construction of public memorials to southern leaders, including himself, fearing – presciently as it turned out – it would prevent wounds from healing. He was widely considered to have been a great general.

However, he failed to actively support the rights of freed slaves after the war, which has meant he has become a divisive figure in the US.

Minutes before praising General Lee at the 4,000-strong rally, Mr Trump had quoted figures from the Bureau of Labour Statistics which suggest unemployment among black Americans is the lowest since records began in 1972. He asked black voters to “honour us” by voting Republican in November’s midterm elections.

“Get away from the Democrats,” he said. “Think of it: We have the best numbers in history... I think we’re going to get the African American vote.”

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He also celebrated hip-hop artist Kanye West’s visit to the White House on Thursday, saying: “What he did was pretty amazing.”

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