The Slatest

Trump VA Secretary Once Criticized Abolitionists in Pro-Confederate Speech

Trump, who is between Wilkie and his wife, pumps his fist.
Donald Trump, Robert Wilkie, and Wilkie’s wife Julia in the Oval Office on July 30.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

CNN archival sleuth Andrew Kaczynski and his “K-File” team have found another doozy: A transcript of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie praising the Confederacy at considerable length in a 1995 speech. Like, to the point where he complains about “radical abolitionists”:

[Wilkie] also said [Jefferson] Davis’ “contempt for the radical abolitionists of the Republican Party” was not about slavery, but rather about out of fear “they would violate any law and abridge any freedom to impose their idea of the just society on others.” Wilkie said the radical abolitionists in Congress were “as mendacious as the Jacobins of Revolutionary France” and called those who funded the abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry “enemies of liberty.”

(To point out the obvious, the Harpers Ferry raid was an effort to free slaves, not an attack on liberty.)

Wilkie is from North Carolina and once worked as a staffer for segregationist North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms; he also worked for Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, who resigned his role as Senate majority leader in 2002 after having publicly praised former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond’s segregationist 1948 presidential campaign.

To his credit (?), Wilkie described slavery as a “stain” on America in the 1995 speech, while a spokesman for the VA told CNN the secretary no longer attends pro-Confederacy events because they are “divisive.”

Per a 2017 report, there are roughly two and a half million black military veterans in the U.S.