President Donald Trump vowed on Friday that military bases named for Confederate leaders “will not be changing” despite congressional momentum on the issue, another increase in tensions over the issue of Confederate symbolism in the military.
Trump’s latest tweet on the topic comes amid reports of White House anger directed at Defense Secretary Mark Esper for last week effectively banning display of the Confederate battle flag at all Defense Department sites.
CNN this week cited multiple insider sources that Trump was unhappy with Esper’s move, saying that the flag should be seen as a symbol of historic pride and not as a connection to America’s slavey past. The outlet also said the relationship between the two men is strained, but Esper’s job appears safe for now.
Pentagon officials declined comment on the report.
On Friday, Trump took to social media to announce he had been discussing the annual defense authorization bill with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., “who has informed me that he WILL NOT be changing the names of our great Military Bases and Forts, places from which we won two World Wars (and more!)”
I spoke to highly respected (Chairman) Senator @JimInhofe, who has informed me that he WILL NOT be changing the names of our great Military Bases and Forts, places from which we won two World Wars (and more!). Like me, Jim is not a believer in “Cancel Culture”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2020
“Like me, Jim is not a believer in ‘Cancel Culture,’” the president wrote.
Trump has been outspoken in defense of keeping the names of Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina and at least eight other Army posts named for Confederate leaders that have come under criticism in recent years.
Multiple times in recent weeks, he has threatened to veto any legislation passed by Congress forcing a change. That includes the annual authorization bill, which contains a host of military pay authorizations and hundreds of other defense budget policy priorities.
“President Trump has been clear in his opposition to politically motivated attempts like this to rewrite history and to displace the enduring legacy of the American Revolution with a new left-wing cultural revolution,” the White House said in a veto threat on the House bill released Tuesday.
Pressed on Friday whether the issue of base names tied to Confederate leaders tied to slavery could hurt military recruiting, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the names should not change because “the bases are not known for the generals they are named after, the bases are known for the heroes that served at them.”