US President Donald Trump is facing backlash, and a bit of confusion, over his latest comments about his hero Andrew Jackson and the American Civil War. In comments made during an interview broadcast on satellite radio, Trump wondered if Jackson could have stopped the Civil War from happening — despite having died 16 prior to the start of the war.
"People don't realise, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?" Trump told Salena Zito, host of SiriusXM's POTUS channel. Zito's interview with Trump was published on Sunday (30 April) in The Washington Examiner.
Trump continued: "People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"
"I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart," Trump said. "He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, 'There's no reason for this.'"
Jackson, the seventh president of the US, died in 1845, while the Civil War did not begin until 1861. Trump has long been an admirer of Jackson, praising his populism and visiting his tomb in March, The New York Times reported.
The president's remarks quickly drew criticisms from historians, who claimed the remarks appeared to show Trump's deep misunderstanding of American history. Julian E Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told the New York Times that Trump's comments were the "height of inaccurate historical revisionism".
Trump's comments also drew the condemnation of his political opponents, The Hill reported. "President Trump doesn't understand why there was a Civil War," tweeted Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). "It's because my ancestors and millions of others were enslaved."
Bill Richardson (D), the former governor of New Mexico, called the comments "an unfortunate remark". "I mean, this is American history, and the president is questioning that," he said on CNN. "I mean, the whole issue of land and slavery and sovereignty, it's so clear. So I don't know why the president gets into these messes that he doesn't need to."
Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former president Bill Clinton and Trump's Democratic presidential opponent Hillary Clinton, had a simple response to Trump's question. "1 word answer: Slavery," she tweeted. "Longer: When Andrew Jackson died in 1985 (16 yrs before the Civil War began), he owned 150 men, women and children."