(AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate calls Confederate statues "our identity"

Corey Stewart has been giving two sets of responses when asked about Confederate monuments


Charlie May
June 5, 2017 6:51PM (UTC)

A Republican candidate running in the state of Virginia's gubernatorial election has made the bold campaign promise of refusing to remove Confederate monuments, calling them "part of our identity here in Virginia," according to Yahoo News.

Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, was not always a major opponent of removing the old Confederate monuments. Last year, Stewart gave a speech at a school ceremony that was celebrating the renaming of the public institution originally named after a former Virginia governor "who fought desegregation of the state’s schools in the 1950s as a state senator," according to Yahoo News.

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"Are you excited to rename this school? It’s been a long, long, long time in coming, that’s for sure," Stewart told the audience. But now, Stewart has pivoted in the opposite direction, and has made a promise to preserve the monuments arguing that they play an important historical role.

“If you can take down a statue of somebody who fought for the Confederacy because you would argue that the Confederacy stood for the preservation of slavery, then you can easily say we should take down any statue and any monument to any slaveholder," Stewart said. "And that in Virginia, and that in America, means our founders: Jefferson, Madison and Washington. And when you take down the founders, you take down the founding documents. . . Over my dead body, when I am governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, are we going to remove a single statue to any Virginian."

When Stewart was asked by Yahoo News to compare his recent statements to the ones he issued at the school ceremony last year, the gubernatorial candidate justified both ends of his rhetoric. "Mills Godwin was a racist Democrat — quite distinct from the Founding Fathers or Gen. [Robert E.] Lee — so to decide to name a school after someone else is a far cry from the leftists’ destroying historical monuments and the erasing of all dissenting opinion," Stewart said over email to Yahoo.

But it seems that his rhetoric will alter and is contingent upon who he must pander to. He has given more relaxed responses during interviews with reporters, where he justifies keeping the statue as historical relics. "Those monuments were erected for a reason so that people remember, and that was during a time when many civil war veterans were still alive, and their families. And they wanted to send a signal to future generations that there was a huge sacrifice here, and it’s something we should never repeat. And I think once you forget, you do repeat, and that concerns me," he said, according to Yahoo News.

However as he spoke to a small crowd of voters he delivered yet another stark contrast. "If we allow them to destroy our history, to try to rewrite history, to sanitize history, we are losing part of our identity here in Virginia," he said, failing to mention his previous points about how the monuments could serve as warnings.

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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Confederate History Confederate Monuments Corey Stewart Partner Video Republican Party Virginia

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