Interior Secretary David Bernhardt brushed off calls made by Washington, D.C., officials to target the city’s landmark monuments that might have ties to the nation’s history of racial oppression or slavery.
“No one will be removing or renaming the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial,” Bernhardt, whose department manages national monuments, said on Fox News’s The Story with Martha MacCallum. “None of that is going to happen. It’s just simply nutty, to be frank.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser recently unveiled a list of dozens of monuments, schools, parks, and government buildings she recommends making changes to because of namesakes tied to slavery.
Bowser announced a task force that will look into the names of public institutions and memorials to make sure they “ensure the namesake’s legacy is consistent with DC values.”
Among the historical figures targeted by the task force include several former presidents such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Woodrow Wilson. Benjamin Franklin and the composer of the national anthem, Francis Scott Key, were also names brought to attention. Bowser began the initiative after the nation was met with a racial reckoning on the country’s history following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Bernhardt said he believes despite the sins of the past, most of the city’s memorials were named after people who achieved a lot in U.S. history.
“Let’s take a step back into reality for a minute and recognize that each of these great individuals did great things,” he said. “No one is saying that each of these individuals was a perfect human being.”
Bernhardt also said any crimes committed at properties managed by the Interior Department will be met with dire consequences.
“If you commit a crime at Interior-managed properties, we’re going to investigate that crime, we are going to prosecute that crime, and if you are convicted, you’re going to go away for a long time for that crime, and that’s exactly the approach we’re taking,” he said.