Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie praised Confederate States President Jefferson Davis effusively in a 1995 speech, calling him a “martyr to ‘The Lost Cause'” and an “exceptional man in an exceptional age.”
Wilkie, who delivered the speech in front of a statue of Davis at the US Capitol during an event sponsored by the United Daughters of Confederacy, also said that while he was “no apologist for the South,” viewing Confederate “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’s speech, a transcript of which ran in the United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine, reveals his belief in the “Lost Cause” theory of the Civil War, which portrays the Southern states who seceded as heroic and denies the central role slavery played as a cause for the conflict.
A KFile review also found Wilkie attended a pro-Confederate event as recently as 2009, giving a speech on Robert E. Lee to a Maryland division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
CNN’s KFile found references to Wilkie while researching the neo-Confederate movement, which seeks to promote a more sympathetic view of the Confederate states during the Civil War, and obtained copies of the speeches from Edward Sebesta, a scholar on the neo-Confederate movement.
Veterans Affairs press secretary Curt Cashour did not address the content of Wilkie’s remarks when asked by CNN but said in a statement that the events Wilkie attended “were strictly historical in nature, and as Secretary Wilkie said at his confirmation hearing in June, he stopped participating in them once the issue became divisive.“
Yes, if there’s one issue that only became divisive in 2010, it’s…the Civil War.