Youngkin appointee who defended Confederate statues resigns from board

RICHMOND — Ann Hunter McLean, a historian who defends Confederate statues and asserts that slavery was not the primary cause of the Civil War, has resigned from the Virginia Board of Historic Resources over what a spokesman for Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) called a disagreement about priorities.

“After discussion about our Administration’s goals and priorities and Dr. McLean’s, Dr. McLean resigned,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said via text message. The resignation was effective Monday. Youngkin had appointed McLean, the former head of a Christian school, to the board in mid-July.

In an email Wednesday to The Washington Post in response to questions about her resignation, McLean struck a defiant tone, saying that Virginians should examine their “actual full and honest history — not a simplified version used for political reasons. I am excited to be completely free now to share that history with people and to speak up to stop the destruction of our shared cultural heritage.”

After the social justice protests of 2020, when Richmond began removing monuments to Confederate icons such as Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, McLean gave numerous interviews in which she lauded Lee’s character and complained that Virginia’s heritage was “under attack.”

“This whole tragedy is that these statues were built to tell the true story of the American South to people 500 years from now,” McLean said to a Richmond radio host on Dec. 23, 2021. “People want to destroy the evidence of that story,” she continued, saying the Civil War was fought for the “sovereignty of each state and constitutional law.”

Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus blasted Youngkin for appointing McLean to the board, which does not have a formal role in overseeing such statues but reviews historic landmark designations and the language on historical markers. Youngkin also appointed Aimee Jorjani, who served under President Donald Trump as chair of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Youngkin initially declined to respond directly to concerns about McLean, with Porter releasing a statement July 15 that “the governor supports preserving the history of Virginia and believes that the referenced statues should be preserved in a museum or other facility.”

But McLean continued making provocative public statements. In a July 18 interview with WRVA radio host John Reid, McLean said that “secession is not treason” and that the U.S. Constitution was broken not when the South seceded, but “when Lincoln called up 75,000 troops to fight against secession.”

She compared Lincoln’s action to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said that “so many people want to just flatten the whole Civil War to slavery. And of course we know slavery is not good, but I think … slavery would have been outlawed in the South within five or 10 years but they wanted to do it on their own time.”

Youngkin was asked about McLean’s remarks by the news media at a public event on July 25. “I disagree with her comments, and she and I have discussed that. And so we’re having a discussion about whether she can represent us well,” Youngkin said, according to a transcript provided by his office.

He praised McLean as “incredibly well-qualified,” according to the transcript, but repeated that “I don’t support” her comments.

Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), head of the Black Caucus, said that despite the resignation, he is concerned that Youngkin “continues to appoint people with toxic views on race and the Black community.” He cited former state LGBTQ+ Advisory Board member Casey Flores, who came under fire for vulgar and offensive tweets before recently leaving the state to take a job in Florida, and State Health Commissioner Colin Greene, who faced calls for his resignation after urging his staff not to talk about racism for fear of alienating White people and after suggesting that genetics might explain disparities in Black maternal mortality.

Youngkin’s administration had asked Flores to tone down his tweets before he left the board, and Greene expressed “regret” over alienating staff members after Youngkin issued a statement expressing disappointment over Greene’s communication skills.

“I’d like to give [Youngkin] the benefit of the doubt,” Bagby said, “but we see a pattern in which he is perfectly fine condoning those who hold hate in their hearts working for him.

“I pray he finds the courage to stand up for what’s right.”

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