Stephen Colbert on Wednesday had some thoughts on the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy.
“The South did rise again,” the late-night host quipped as a video clip played of a crane lifting the statue from its 40-foot granite pedestal, “and then was immediately lowered into the parking lot.”
The state Supreme Court had issued a pair of rulings dismissing claims by a group of Richmond residents that an 1890 deed and an 1889 General Assembly joint resolution prohibited the governor from ordering the removal of state monuments from state property. Gov. Ralph Northam first announced plans to have the statue taken down in June 2020 following civil unrest over the death of George Floyd.
Until a decision is made on the fate of the statue, it will be held in a state-owned storage facility. But first, a crew began cutting the 12-ton piece of bronze into more manageable pieces to be transported.
“It’s like [Abraham] Lincoln said, ‘A statue of Robert E. Lee divided against itself cannot stand, and that’s OK with me!’” Colbert joked.
The statue memorialized Lee on his horse, Traveller. The entire monument was removed—but Colbert quipped that the horse was innocent, and therefore should remain.
“Why do they have to take down his horse?” he asked in jest. “[Traveller] didn’t do anything! When asked if the horse wanted to join the fight to preserve slavery, the horse said, ‘Neigh.’”
Lee’s likeness had been the last remaining Confederate statue along Richmond’s Monument Avenue. The city’s Democratic mayor last year invoked his emergency powers to remove statues of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, among others.