Mayor Levar Stoney says confederate monuments were 'the fake news of their time'

On 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper took a deep dive into the debate of the removal of confederate monuments, research that Cooper says CBS began in 2017. 

During his report, Cooper sat down with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who during the recent protests over the future of Monument Avenue, has made it clear he wants the statues taken down.

"The monuments are just a symbol of the effort to ensure African Americans stayed, maybe not in physical bondage, but in bondage in political and economically in this country and in this city," said Stoney, who added, "Those who chose to erect those monuments, and the figures who are glorified in those monuments, they made some serious attempts to ensure that people who look like me would never hold any political office, ever, in Virginia."

Cooper asked Stoney if, following Charlottesville, he was surprised by how many people were willing to come out and show their true colors, to which Stoney responded, "I think it woke a lot of people up, not just here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but around the country."

"It is, for me, the greatest  example of nostalgia masquerading as history.  It's the fake news of their time," stated Stoney.

Cooper also sat down with former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu who, back in 2017, made the controversial decision to remove four confederate monuments, and shared with Cooper the dangerous risk that came with it.

While Cooper described the scene as looking "like a military operation," due to the fact that construction crews "wore bullet proof helmets and vests, and police snipers were stationed on rooftops nearby,"  Landrieu shared that it was impossible to find a local company that would take on the monumental job. "When we put the thing out to bid, the one contractor that showed up had his life threatened. He had his car bombed," revealed Landrieu. "His car was actually fire-bombed. Death threats were coming in and, so, I couldn't find a crane. I could not find a damn crane."

As we know, Landrieu did eventually find a contractor out of state to take down the four monuments, and Landrieu more than stands by his decision.

"In a city that I represent, that's 67% African American, to have a young African American girl pass by that statue and look at it every day, I ask myself, 'Am I really preparing for her a really good future? Is she feeling like she's getting lifted up by the government, or is she being put down?' I mean, I think the answer's pretty clear. Really, what these monuments were, were a lie," stated Landrieu. Asked to clarify, Landrieu explained, "On the sense that Robert E. Lee was used as an example, to send a message to the rest of the country, and to all the people that lived here, that the confederacy was a noble cause. And that's just not true."

Finally, Landrieu stated, "I really did want to make a definitive statement, as a white man from the south, as the Mayor of a major American city at the dawning of the 21st century, that it's not unclear anymore about what the Civil War was about, and who won, and what the values are that we should really revere."

However, not all agree with the removal of confederate monuments, hence the debate across the country. Professor William J. Cooper, a former professor of history at Louisiana State University for 46 years, told Anderson Cooper that removing the monuments is a mistake and that they are not, in fact, a "false history."

"The monument was put up there by real people who had real beliefs. Maybe we don't like their beliefs. But one of the things that bothers me most as a historian is what I call 'Presentism,' judging the past by the present. Figuring that we are the only moral people, that nobody else could be moral if they didn't think like we think," said the former professor, who also said that the monuments "do celebrate white supremacy." However, removing the monuments is a "slippery slope."

"Should Mount Vernon be up today? Should we go burn Monticello down tomorrow? Certainly Thomas Jefferson believed in white supremacy," said William Cooper.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

LEVAR STONEY: The monuments are just a symbol of the effort to ensure African Americans stay, maybe not in physical bondage, but in bondage in political and economically in this country and in this city.

- On 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper took a deep dive into the debate of the removal of Confederate monuments, research that Cooper says CBS began in 2017. During his report, Cooper sat down with Richmond Virginia mayor, Levar Stoney, who during the recent protests over the future of Monument Avenue, has made it clear he wants the statues taken down.

LEVAR STONEY: It is, for me, the greatest example of nostalgia masquerading as history.

ANDERSON COOPER: It's not real history.

LEVAR STONEY: It's-- well, it's the fake news of their time.

- Cooper also interviewed former New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, who back in 2017, made the controversial decision to remove four Confederate monuments and shared the dangerous risk that came with it.

- Construction crews wore bullet proof helmets and vests, and police snipers were stationed on rooftops nearby.

MITCH LANDRIEU: When we put the thing out to bid, the one contractor they got showed up, had his life threatened, he had his car bombed.

ANDERSON COOPER: His car was actually--

MITCH LANDRIEU: The car was actually firebombed. Death threats were coming in. And so I couldn't find a crane. I could not find a damn crane.

- Of course, Landrieu did eventually find a contractor out of state to take down the four monuments. And Landrieu more than stands by his decision.

MITCH LANDRIEU: But I really did want to make a definitive statement, as a white man from the south, as the mayor of a major American city at the dawning of the 21st century that it's not unclear anymore about what the Civil War was about, and who won, and what the values are that we should really revere.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

More From

  • Zelda Williams takes social media break on anniversary of dad Robin’s death

    Zelda Williams, daughter of late actor Robin Williams, is planning to spend the sixth anniversary of his death caught up in her own memories of him. She confirmed Monday that she’d be taking Tuesday, Aug. 11 off from social media, as she does every year.

  • Stephen Colbert moves 'The Late Show' out of his house but not back into the Ed Sullivan Theater studio

    After five months of shooting from home, Stephen Colbert and the crew of "The Late Show" return to new set at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

  • Stephen Colbert moves 'The Late Show' to the Ed Sullivan Theater offices

    On Monday, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater. In March, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, Colbert was forced to vacate the studio and shoot remotely from home. But while he was glad to be back in the building, he didn’t make it all the way back to the studio. “I’m back in New York City,” said Colbert during the opening monologue. “Here in the Ed Sullivan Theater…’s office building.” Instead of shooting in the main studio, production built a smaller set in one of the studio offices. The new set is a replica of Colbert’s actual office in the building. While Colbert was ecstatic about reuniting with his crew, he couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic thinking about the past five months of production, which he had to rely heavily on his family for. With his wife and kids just off camera, Colbert said, “I want to thank my wife and kids again for everything they did to help produce the show while I was home. I just want to say that over the past 5 months, you’ve all become like a family to me.”

  • Bryan Cranston addresses 'Breaking Bad' and 'Malcolm in the Middle' fan theory

    The actor's response finally puts to rest the fan-favorite theory that "Breaking Bad" is a prequel to "Malcolm in the Middle."