Biden Says We Should 'Protect' Columbus, Washington and Jefferson Statues

Former Vice President Joe Biden said during a press conference Tuesday the government has a "responsibility to protect" the statues of Christopher Columbus, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

"Taking down, toppling the Christopher Columbus statue or the George Washington statue, I think that is something that the government has an opportunity and a responsibility to protect from happening," Biden said when asked about his thoughts on monuments and statues being removed across the country.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told reporters he believes there is a "distinction" to be made with regards to statues and whether or not they should be allowed to stay in public places.

"I think there is a distinction between...reminders and remembrances of history, and recovering from history," Biden said. He cited former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who said of Confederate statues in 2017, "There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it."

Biden went on to differentiate George Washington, who did own slaves and "may have things in the past that are now and then distasteful," from leaders of the Confederacy who fought to keep slavery.

"The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and somebody who was in rebellion, committing treason, and running trying to take down the Union to keep slavery – I think there is a distinction there," Biden said.

"I think the idea of bringing down all those Confederate monuments to Confederate soldiers and generals who strongly supported succession and the maintenance of slavery, and going to war to do it, I think those statues belong in museums," Biden said. The former vice president went on to say that the government is obligated to protect statues and monuments "like the Jefferson Memorial," calling them a "remembrance."

Biden's comments come after weeks of Black Lives Matter protesters calling for Confederate statues and monuments to be taken down across the country, as well as those commemorating Columbus. Local officials across the country have acquiesced to many of those requests. Numerous statues of Columbus, Washington and Jefferson have been toppled or vandalized by vandals, as well.

Newsweek reached out to the Black Lives Matter organization for comment, but they did not respond back in time for publication.

Biden also weighed in on Princeton University's decision to remove former President Woodrow Wilson's name from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College, saying, "any institution that chose a name and wants to now jettison that name, that's a decision for them to make."

"I'm assuming the Board of Trustees made the judgment about the Woodrow Wilson School...It was made within the context of an institution that chose that name and now no longer wants to be associated with that name," Biden said.

Princeton said it changed the name due to the former president's "racist thinking and policies."

Joe Biden
US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a press conference on June 30, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. The former Vice President said the government has "a responsibility to protect" statues of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. Brendan Smialowski/Getty