In a report on Friday marking America’s Independence Day, CNN reporter Leyla Santiago, reporting from Mount Rushmore, where President Trump spoke, referred to Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson not as two of the greatest presidents in America’s history, but simply as “two slave owners.”
Santiago stated, “Kicking off the Independence Day Weekend, President Trump will be at Mount Rushmore, where he’ll be standing in front of a monument of two slave owners and on land wrestled away from Native Americans told that uh, be focusing on the effort to ‘tear down our country’s history.’”
CNN anchor Jake Tapper made no effort to ameliorate the situation, saying simply, “All right. Leyla Santiago, with that report, thank you so much.”
As Santiago delivered her nasty characterization of Washington and Jefferson, CNN was running a nasty chyron that mocked July 4 by putting ‘Independence” in scare quotes as it stated, “Reexamining ‘Independence’ Day,” with the subheading, “As Americans grapple with racial reckoning, some are uncertain how to celebrate Independence Day.”
The scare quotes are unnecessary, of course: Independence Day is the official name of the holiday, under 5 USC Section 6103.
CNN: "President Trump will be at Mount Rushmore, where he’ll be standing in front of a monument of two slave owners and on land wrestled away from Native Americans.” pic.twitter.com/UYjzEiUkU9
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) July 3, 2020
Santiago’s hostile perspective vis-à-vis Washington and Jefferson is not unique for CNN; in August 2017, CNN commentator Angela Rye called for all statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to be removed after The Daily Beast’s editor John Avlon argued Washingon spent his life trying to unite the nation.
I think that we have to get to the heart of the problem here and the heart of the problem is the way in which many of us were taught American history. American history is not all glorious and even though I love John to death, I couldn’t disagree more about George Washington. George Washington was a slave owner and we need to call slave owners out for what they are. Whether we think they were protecting American freedom or not, he wasn’t protecting my freedom. I wasn’t someone — my ancestors weren’t deemed human beings to him. And so to me, I don’t care if it’s a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue or a Robert E. Lee statue, they all need to come down. There is a way that we can recognize…
I’m not feeding into white supremacy. I’m calling out white supremacy for what it is. And sometimes what it is, John, are blind spots. Sometimes what it is, is not acknowledging that this country was built on a very violent past that resulted in death and the rape and the killing of my ancestors. I’m not going to allow us to say it’s OK for Robert E. Lee but not a George Washington. We need to call it what it is. And I’m not saying that they don’t deserve to be taught about. We definitely need to learn about it so that we don’t repeat it because we are close to repeating it right now. But I’m not giving any deference to George Washington or Robert E. Lee.
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