President Trump called the American Museum of Natural History’s decision to remove a statue of 26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt “ridiculous.”
The museum, located in New York City, was founded by Roosevelt’s father and others in 1869, and every visitor to the museum since 1940 has been greeted by the statue of the former president on a horse and flanked by a Native American and black American.
“The statue was meant to celebrate Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) as a devoted naturalist and author of works on natural history. Roosevelt’s father was one of the Museum’s founders, and the Museum is proud of its historic association with the Roosevelt family,” the museum said in a Sunday statement. “At the same time, the statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing.”
Museum president Ellen Futter said that while Roosevelt is and will continued to be honored at the museum, that statue with its “hierarchical composition” was no longer a welcome sight at the museum’s entrance.
“The time has come to move it,” Futter told The New York Times.
Trump weighed in on Futter’s decision early Monday morning. “Ridiculous, don’t do it!” Trump tweeted along with a story about the statue’s removal.
Ridiculous, don’t do it! https://t.co/VYez8p9AJh
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020
The museum building and the property is owned by the city, giving New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio the final say in a decision such as removing the Roosevelt statue. De Blasio explained his support for removing the statue in a statement to CNN.
“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” de Blasio said. “The city supports the museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
Controversy over confederate and other statues has again heated up recently in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd, a black man, died in police custody on May 25. Video of his arrest taken by nearby witnesses shows one now-fired officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd said he could not breathe.
The incident sparked protests across the United States, including many that devolved into riots and required city and state officials calling in National Guard units to help quell the violence. Protests renewed a broader national conversation over racism in the United States that has stoked various mobs to tear down statues without official approval of statues they deem offensive.
Some statues targeted in recent days have included depictions of founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, former President Ulysses S. Grant, the national anthem’s author Francis Scott Key, and 18th century Catholic priest Junipero Serra.
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