Gibbs April Ryan split 6-19-09

Much of Tuesday's White House daily briefing was dominated by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's praise for treasonous slave-torturer Robert E. Lee and his complete ignorance of the Civil War.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Kelly, refused to denounce Ku Klux Klan icon Nathan Bedford Forrest, and fled the podium to shouts of “Was slavery wrong?”

To show you just how far we've fallen in this country, think back to the first year of President Barack Obama's term, when April Ryan — the same reporter who was snubbed by Sanders on Tuesday — asked then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs a question about slavery. Now try to imagine Gibbs's response coming from anyone in the Trump administration:

RYAN: OK, well, what is the president's thought about slavery, especially since he invoked —

GIBBS: Opposed. (Laughter.)

RYAN: Excuse me?

GIBBS: Opposed.

That bit was part of a longer exchange that seems like it's from some alternate universe, like “The Man in the High Castle” in reverse. Ryan was asking Gibbs about a Senate resolution apologizing for slavery, which passed unanimously before later dying in the House:

GIBBS: April, you just asked me what the president's view on slavery was. What did you think I was going to say? (Laughter.)

RYAN: You didn't let me finish my —

GIBBS: OK, look, this is a very serious topic —

RYAN: Yes, thank you.

GIBBS: — I just want to note that that was your question. Go ahead, I'm sorry.

RYAN: OK, but I want to finish the statement —

GIBBS: And it does drive me crazy when one doesn't get a chance to finish their entire statement before somebody else — I'm sorry, I'm off track, go ahead. (Laughter.) It is Friday, guys. I'm just trying to have a little fun.

RYAN: Anyway, you know, especially dealing with this issue of slavery, especially since he invoked the issue of slavery over a year ago in his Philadelphia speech on race, is it something that this White House could indeed tackle? Bill Clinton tackled it and tabled it in his second term when he dealt with the race initiative. Is this something —

MR. GIBBS: Tackled and tabled what? I'm sorry.

RYAN: The apology — the possibility of an apology for slavery.

GIBBS: Well, one, I don't know if this is even something that — just purely legislatively, I don't know if the resolution per se ultimately comes here or not for signature. I don't know the answer to that.

Look, I think the president has spoken on any number of occasions about the stain that slavery left on this country, that throughout our history we have sought to better perfect our union and have had many bumps along the way. And one of the most significant of those stains is that of slavery; that it is clearly something that we continue to struggle with. The president obviously hopes that we can make progress on race relations and that we all have a deeper and better understanding of backgrounds and beliefs.

While it's easy to imagine Sarah Huckabee Sanders complaining about being interrupted, the rest of this exchange is unfathomable today. It is now a matter of public record that the Confederacy was an “honorable” cause fought by “people of good faith.” This Congress is more likely to draft an apology to Robert E. Lee than anyone else.

Watch Sanders's reaction to slavery questions below.

Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.

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