CNN Laments 'Dark History of Mount Rushmore's Sculpture' Ahead of Independence Day Celebration
CNN joined the establishment media effort to “cancel” Mount Rushmore, lamenting the “dark history” of the sculpture and criticizing President Trump — who is set to deliver a speech at the historic landmark Friday night — for defending “racist monuments.”
“The dark history of Mount Rushmore’s sculpture itself takes center stage with Trump’s visit,” CNN’s Betsy Klein wrote in a preview of the event not labeled as an opinion piece.
“The President, who has stoked racial animus since he first entered the political arena, has moved to defend racist monuments in the face of nationwide protests over the treatment of Black Americans,” Klein continued, noting that Friday’s Independence Day celebration was planned prior to the widespread civil unrest.
CNN’s grievances appear to be in lockstep with the New York Times, which published an article this week highlighting controversies with the historic landmark — from its location on “Indigenous land,” to the sculptor’s purported ties to white supremacy, to the presidents depicted on the American icon itself.
Like the Times, CNN quoted Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and leader of the Indigenous activist group NDN Collective, who ultimately wants the monument closed and the land given to Indigenous people:
Indigenous people and my ancestors fought and died, and gave their lives to protect the sacred land, and to blow up a mountain and put the faces of four White men who were colonizers who committed genocide against Indigenous people — the fact that we don’t, as Americans, think of that as an absolute outrage is ridiculous.
Klein noted that two of the presidents on the landmark were slave owners and effectively dismissed Abraham Lincoln, despite his historic role in signing the Emancipation Proclamation:
Two of the four presidents carved into the mountain in South Dakota, Washington and Jefferson, were slave owners. And though Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Tilsen notes that his legacy, for Native Americans, is a dark one. He approved the executions of 38 Dakota natives in Mankato, Minnesota (though he commuted the sentences of hundreds of others in the same incident).
Lincoln, Tilsen said, “was a mass murderer, a colonizer — ordered the biggest mass hanging in the history of the nation. So he was not one of our heroes. He’s not somebody — he was an enemy of our people, of Indigenous people, and it’s important that we have a reckoning with the true history of this nation.”
Klein also mentioned the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who had been tasked with Stone Mountain’s Confederate Memorial Carving — the “largest high relief sculpture in the world” depicting Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee, and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
“Before Mount Rushmore was even considered, Borglum was working on Stone Mountain, Georgia, a Confederate memorial,” said Tom Griffith, Mount Rushmore Society board member.
“I think more than the ideology, but more practically, he was affiliated with the Klan to raise money for this Confederate memorial,” he told CNN.
CNN went one step further than the Times, also mentioning the “environmental risk” of holding an Independence Day celebration at the landmark:
Pine beetle infestations in nearby forests were the cause of concern when the fireworks were discontinued. These infestations can kill trees, which increases their flammability risk and, in turn, poses a potential wildfire hazard. Fireworks increased the risk that a fire would ignite.
The efforts to effectively cancel Mount Rushmore come as activists demand the removal of historic monuments and statues in cities nationwide in the name of racial and social justice. Notably, several of the monuments activists have targeted are unrelated to the Confederacy. Vandals in Charlotte, North Carolina, targeted a World War II memorial while demonstrators in Madison, Wisconsin, toppled a statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg — an immigrant who died fighting against slavery.
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) has defended Mount Rushmore, calling it a symbol of “American exceptionalism” — not of “white supremacy.”
“Each of the presidents were picked for a specific reason,” Ravnsborg told Fox & Friends on Friday. “President Washington, for obviously the birth of our nation, President Jefferson for the growth of our nation, President Lincoln for the development of our nation, and Teddy Roosevelt for the preservation of our nation.”
“This is a symbol of American exceptionalism, and I believe that there’s no way of white supremacy,” he continued.
“That obviously has been a dispute over the years since the time about 1876,” Ravnsborg said of claims of America stealing native land. “But that case has actually been litigated to the United States Supreme Court.”
“We are sympathetic to their feelings on the issue, but I do believe that it was not meant to desecrate the land but to honor America and honor our state of South Dakota,” he added.
Despite the mounting complaints, the Independence Day event is slated to kick-off Friday night. Roughly 7,500 are expected to attend the festivities, which will feature fireworks, a flyover, and remarks from the president.