HISTORY LESSONS

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie: Confederate President Jefferson Davis a ‘Martyr to the Lost Cause’

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie reportedly praised Confederate States President Jefferson Davis in a 1995 speech, calling him a “martyr to the Lost Cause” and an “exceptional man in an exceptional age.” According to CNN, Wilkie also said viewing Confederate history through the “lens of slavery” is a “disservice to our ancestors.” “To view our history and the ferocity of the Confederate soldier solely through the lens of slavery and by the slovenly standards of the present is dishonest and a disservice to our ancestors,” Wilkie reportedly said at a U.S. Capitol event hosted by the United Daughters of Confederacy. “We can’t surrender American history to an enforced political orthodoxy dictated to our children by attention-starved politicians, street corner demagogues, and tenured campus radicals.”

CNN reports that the “Lost Cause” theory of the Civil War, which is typically touted by neo-Confederates, denies slavery played a central role in the conflict. More recently, Wilkie attended and spoke at a a Sons of Confederate Veterans event in 2009, CNN reports. Veterans Affairs Press Secretary Curt Cashour told CNN the events Wilkie attended were “were strictly historical in nature” and said the secretary “stopped participating in them once the issue became divisive.”