President Trump on Sunday flatly dismissed efforts to rename North Carolina’s Fort Bragg and said he doesn’t care what the military says, he will make the final decision.
Mr. Trump in recent weeks has declared that his administration “will not even consider” renaming Fort Bragg, named after Confederate leader Gen. Braxton Bragg, Virginia’s Fort Lee or any other of the 10 Army installations that bear the names of famous Confederate figures.
Pentagon leaders have said they are open to renaming the bases that honor the Confederacy following a push from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation that would mandate the move.
Efforts to confront racism within the ranks were sparked following the national protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody.
“I don’t care what the military says,” Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “I’m supposed to make the decision.”
“Fort Bragg is a big deal. We won two World Wars. No one even knows General Bragg. We won two World Wars,” he continued. “Go to that community where Fort Bragg is, in a great state, I love that state, go to the community, say how do you like the idea of renaming Fort Bragg, and then what are we going to name it?”
The White House has repeatedly argued that casting the monikers as racist is absurd, given that the sites have served as key training grounds for patriotic American soldiers who went on to fight in World War II and other conflicts.
Mr. Trump in the interview later asked Mr. Wallace who the bases would be renamed for. “We’re going to name it after the Rev. Al Sharpton? What are you going to name it, Chris, tell me what you’re going to name it?”
Mr. Sharpton, an activist and MSNBC host, later responded and said that he “appreciated the boost,” and suggested the bases be renamed to honor Black people who served in the armed forces when it was segregated.
The president’s comments came two days after Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper banned the display of the Confederate flag at military facilities, but did so without specifically mentioning the flag.
The Pentagon chief issued a memorandum that listed “approved” flags, of which the Confederate flag was not mentioned, and explained that unapproved flags would be prohibited on military properties.
Mr. Trump on Sunday defended the display of the Confederate flag and said that “when people proudly have their Confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism.”
“They love their flag, it represents the South, they like the South. People right now like the South. I’d say it’s freedom of, of, of many things, but it’s freedom of speech.”
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