The scandal-ridden Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has another abomination on his hands after comments that implied that Confederate General Robert E. Lee was an equivalent American hero to venerated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. at a ceremony dedicating a new national monument this weekend, according to an article on The Huffington Post.
Zinke was in Kentucky speaking at a ceremony that awarded national monument status to Camp Nelson, a Union recruitment and training depot in Kentucky for black soldiers during the Civil War. The Interior Secretary was under heightened scrutiny for his remarks during the dedication ceremony particularly since he has taken an adamant stance against the removal of Confederate monuments from federal property.
During his speech, Zinke made a convoluted reference to the placement of other national monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery, which was created from the land that had been General Lee’s former Virginia plantation before the Civil War ended.
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“I like to think that Lincoln doesn’t have his back to General Lee. He’s in front of him. There’s a difference. Similar to Martin Luther King doesn’t have his back to Lincoln. He’s in front of Lincoln as we march together to form a more perfect union,” Zinke said as he began his speech. “That’s a great story, and so is Camp Nelson.”
Civil rights organizations denounced the comments as erroneously offensive.
“To compare Martin Luther King to Robert E. Lee is not only a dangerous comparison, it is completely historically inaccurate,” Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said in an email. “Dr. King saved lives ― Robert E. Lee destroyed them.”
The NAACP welcomed the dedication of the new national monument at Camp Nelson, but decried the decision to tie General Lee to the story as “unfortunate.”
“To attempt to link Lee’s achievements for the Confederacy which embraced White Supremacy to that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a slight oversight but a huge historical misappropriation that the descendants of enslaved Africans cannot accept or tolerate,” Malik Russell, an NAACP spokesman, said in an email. “Dr. King’s work united our nation and bent the moral arc toward justice, while General Lee acquiesced to the ignoble norms of his time.”
The National Park Service, an agency within the Interior Department, provided a very different rationale for the placement of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial than Zinke posited.
Its website says that placement of the King memorial between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials was done purposefully “to reinforce the connection between these three leaders at three important moments for civil rights in our nation’s history” ― Thomas Jefferson’s promise that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s abolition of slavery and King’s push for equal rights.
Add this latest outrage from Zinke to a long list of scandals that he has engendered since taking office that includes shady business dealings, staff shake-ups that disproportionately affected minorities, and the decimation of federally protected national monument land to sell off large chunks to energy development interests.
Hopefully one of the more than 11 formal investigations into Zinke’s alleged corruption will soon send him packing like the other scandal-ridden Trump cabinet members forced to resign for their misdeeds before him, including former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
With both Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross currently in the crosshairs of ethics investigators, it appears that the only way to root corruption out of the White House is to install a Congress that will actively go after the Republican perpetrators that the current leaders of their own party refuse to pursue with sufficient zeal.
The midterms are just days away. This is your chance to clean house. You must vote!
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Original reporting by Alexander C. Kaufman and Chris D’Angelo at The Huffington Post.