WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he would “not even consider” renaming Army bases that honor Confederate leaders who fought to protect slavery and uphold white supremacy despite nationwide reckoning over racial discrimination in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd.
“The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,” he tweeted.
“Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!” Trump continued, calling the bases “part of a Great American Heritage.”
Trump's tweets came just as Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, wrapped up an emotional testimony to members of Congress on police reform, urging them to listen to the calls around the world to "stop the pain."
The White House passed around a printed sheet of the tweets compiled into a statement to reporters Wednesday afternoon ahead of the press briefing. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany began the press conference by reading the tweets, saying that the statement had come “directly from the president” and that “we spent some time working on that.”
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy had said in a statement earlier Wednesday that he was “open to having a bipartisan conversation regarding the renaming of Army bases," adding that "no decision has been made at this time.”
The Pentagon had also said that the secretary of Defense and the secretary of the Army were “open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic.”
The Army has 10 military posts named after Confederate military officers, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Hood in Texas.
Discussion about whether to rename the bases has come up every few years, but the wave of national protests and turmoil in response to Floyd's killing has reignited the debate about the country's history of slavery and the continued glorification of Confederate symbols and leaders, including memorials.
Some lawmakers have pledged to dismantle such monuments.
In Virginia, for example, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee would be removed in Richmond, along with four other statues depicting Confederate figures.
The Navy's top admiral announced Tuesday that he was drafting an order to ban the display of Confederate flags from all public spaces and work areas on Navy installations. Earlier this year, the Marine Corps commandant announced he was banning Confederate paraphernalia from installations.
The Navy has not announced plans to rename any of its ships, some of which bear the names of Confederate officers.
When asked if the president disagreed with the Navy's move, McEnany said she had not spoken to him on the specific issue.
"He does, as I noted at the top of this briefing, fervently stand against the renaming of our forts, these great American fortresses where literally some of these men and women who lost their lives as they went out to Europe, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and all across this world to win world wars on behalf of freedom," McEnany said. "A lot of times, the very last place they saw was one of these forts and to suggest these forts were somehow inherently racist and their names need to be changed is a complete disrespect to the men and women."
McEnany pushed back against questions over Trump's position, and efforts to eliminate symbolism sympathetic to the Confederacy. "I'm told that no longer can you find on HBO 'Gone with the Wind' because somehow that is now offensive. Where do you draw the line?" she said.
HBO Max announced Wednesday they would remove “Gone With the Wind,” the 1939 movie based off the bestselling novel that romanticizes the Civil War, saying that they would bring the film back with a discussion of its historical context.
Trump has long praised “Gone With the Wind,” suggesting earlier this year that he would have preferred it to win the Oscar for best picture over “Parasite,” the first film not in the English language to win. "Gone With the Wind" was not eligible for an Academy Award last season, as it was released more than 80 years ago.
"Should George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison be erased from history?" McEnany added.