Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, who once praised Confederate States President Jefferson Davis as a "martyr to 'The Lost Cause'" and an "exceptional man in an exceptional age”, offered inaccurate answers to senators during his confirmation process regarding pro-Confederate speeches he gave in 2009, according to CNN.
In response to questions about remarks he made at Confederate memorial events, Wilkie downplayed his participation in a June 2009 event at the Confederate memorial in Arlington National Cemetery as simply introducing a keynote speaker. He also said he didn't have copies of remarks because he had not delivered a speech to such groups in "15-20 years."
But Wilkie's comments stand in contradiction to what his spokesman told CNN's KFile team last week, when he confirmed that Wilkie delivered a speech extolling the legacy of Robert E. Lee at that June 2009 ceremony at the Confederate memorial. The speech was the same one that he gave to another group in December 2009, which was also published in the Confederate Veteran magazine.
Curt Cashour, Wilkie’s spokesman, said Wilkie answered senators’ questions with his “best recollection”.
Cashour told CNN's KFILE last week that the December 2009 speech to a Maryland branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans "was the same speech Secretary Wilkie gave at a 2009 official Arlington Cemetery event to which President Obama sent a wreath recognizing the service of Confederate Veterans."
Cashour's response contradicted what Wilkie told senators in his June 2018 confirmation hearing about the Arlington Cemetery event, when he said, "The only thing I did was introduce a fellow named Ron Maxwell, who's the producer of the famous movie 'Gettysburg,' and I thanked President Obama for his support of an event that celebrated America's veterans, both Union and Confederate. President Obama brought -- had a wreath delivered by the old guard of the Army."
Asked last year by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for copies of speeches he gave at Confederate memorial events, Wilkie indicated he had not retained any such copies: "I did not keep copies of the remarks as they were made over 15-20 years ago."
According to Cashour, Wilkie was unaware that his Lee speech was published in the magazine.
"Whether the handful of events took place close to a decade ago or 15-20 years ago, Secretary Wilkie gave his best recollection of his participation in them, and emphasized that they were strictly historical in nature, almost all official and bipartisan, and he stopped participating in them once the issue became divisive," Cashour said. "He was not aware that the remarks had been published, and, as he stated, he did not keep copies of the remarks."