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Trump praises Confederate general Robert E. Lee at Ohio campaign rally
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally endorsing the Republican ticket in Lebanon, Ohio. John Minchillo/AP

President Donald Trump praised Confederate general and slavery supporter Robert E. Lee at a campaign rally Friday night in Ohio, right after making a case for why black voters should vote Republican in the midterm elections.

Trump praised Lee — who fought to preserve slavery in the United States — calling him a “true great fighter” and a “great general.”

“Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle. And Abraham Lincoln came home, he said, ‘I can’t beat Robert E. Lee,’” Trump said. “They said to Lincoln, ‘You can’t use [Grant] anymore, he’s an alcoholic.’ And Lincoln said, ‘I don’t care if he’s an alcoholic, frankly, give me six or seven more just like him.’ He started to win.”

Trump’s stance on monuments to Confederate leaders like Lee ignited a movement last year to remove those statues of leaders who fought to preserve slavery.

Trump, however, said those monuments should stay.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump tweeted in August 2017.

Theologian Rob Lee, a descendant of the Confederate general, said he was “disheartened” to hear Trump praise his ancestor.

“Last night I was disheartened to hear Donald Trump, our president, make comments about Robert E. Lee as a great general, as an honorable man,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “These were far from the truth. Yet again our president is lying and showing us his true colors. He is showing us that he supports an idol of white supremacy and hatred. Robert E. Lee fought for the continued enslavement of black bodies. It was for state’s rights, yes, but it was for states’ rights to own slaves.”

Trump’s praise of Lee came after he asked black voters to “honor” the GOP by voting for Republicans in November.

“Get away from the Democrats,” Trump said to black voters.

Correction: Oct. 16, 2018
Due to the way NBC News cut a video of Trump’s speech in Ohio, this article originally mischaracterized who Trump called “incredible.” Trump was actually referring to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.