President Donald Trump ruled out renaming U.S. military bases that are named after Confederate leaders on Wednesday even as auto-racing company NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its races and Democrats sought the removal from Capitol Hill of statues of people representing the pro-slavery South in the 1860s Civil War.
With Americans more conscious about race issues in the wake of the death of African American George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, Trump drew a line in favor of keeping the names of 10 military bases from Virginia to Texas that are named for Confederate military leaders.
Trump’s announcement via tweet basically slapped down those Pentagon officials open to discussing the issue, which has emerged as a way of achieving racial reconciliation.
In the past few days, officials have said that the Pentagon, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, was open to having a bipartisan conversation about renaming the Army bases named for Confederate leaders.
In a series of tweets, Trump argued the bases have become part of a “Great American Heritage.”
NASCAR, whose races frequently feature fans waving the Confederate battle flag, said on Wednesday it would ban the ”stars and bars” flag from its events.
On Capitol Hill, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to immediately take steps to remove from the U.S. Capitol 11 statues representing Confederate leaders and soldiers. Among the statues is one of Confederate military commander Robert E. Lee. “Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed,” Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a letter to leaders of a congressional committee in charge of managing the statues on display at the Capitol.
U.S. military bases named for Confederate military leaders are all located in former Confederate states. Many of those states helped elect Trump in 2016, and he is counting on them again for the November 3 election.