White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she did not want to "relitigate the Civil War" during Tuesday's press briefing, but she spent a hefty amount of time doing just that. Sanders was answering questions following White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's comments Monday evening defending Confederate general Robert E. Lee as an "honorable man" and claiming the Civil War occurred because of "the lack of an ability to compromise."
After arguing to Glenn Thrush of The New York Times that "all of our leaders have flaws" to defend Kelly's appraisal of Lee, Sanders was next pressed by NPR's Mara Liasson, who asked whether the hypothetical solution Kelly was envisioning was "to leave the Southern states slave and the Northern states free." "What was the compromise that could have been made?" Liasson asked. Sanders pointed to "many historians" who "agree that a failure to compromise was a cause of the Civil War," saying that "there are a lot of different versions of those compromises":
NBC's Hallie Jackson then asked Sanders directly whether the White House would at least "acknowledge" that Kelly's comments were "deeply offensive to some folks, and historically inaccurate." "No," Sanders flatly replied, before deriding "the media" for wanting to "push that this is some sort of a racially charged and divided White House." She asserted that Kelly's comments had been "taken out of context" and called the controversy "absurd and disgraceful":
As Sanders left the lectern to signal the end of the briefing, American Urban Radio Networks' April Ryan yelled a final question: "Does this administration think that slavery was wrong?" Sanders did not reply.