In the past, Trump has defended such statues from removal, calling activists’ efforts to “take away” U.S. history and culture by calling for the removal of Confederate statues.
A different statue of Lee was the site of the deadly protest at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Just watched as a massive crane took down the magnificent and very famous statue of ‘Robert E. Lee On His Horse’ in Richmond, Virginia. It has long been recognized as a beautiful piece of bronze sculpture,” Trump said in a statement.
“To add insult to injury, those who support this ‘taking’ now plan to cut it into three pieces, and throw this work of art into storage prior to its complete desecration,” he added.
Trump then stated that had Lee been alive, he would have led a successful military operation in Afghanistan.
“Our culture is being destroyed and our history and heritage, both good and bad, are being extinguished by the Radical Left, and we can’t let that happen!” Trump said in his statement. “If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan, that disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago. What an embarrassment we are suffering because we don’t have the genius of a Robert E. Lee!”
Following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, nationwide protests erupted. It sparked calls for racial justice and the removal of Confederate statues across the country, including inside the United States Capitol.
Some argue that the remnants of the Confederacy are symbols of hatred. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) described the bronze sculpture as “Virginia’s largest monument to the Confederate insurgency.” Opponents of removing Confederate monuments have generally argued that doing so removes or erases American history.
Following Northam’s announcement that the Lee statue in Richmond would be removed, a legal battle erupted. Last week, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the statue could be demolished and that the removal process could begin.
Northam was among those who watched the statue come down and be cut into pieces by workers on Wednesday. The Lee statue will be housed in a state-owned facility.
Earlier this summer, the Lee statue in Charlottesville was also removed.