Andrew Young, a black civil rights leader, former Democratic Atlanta mayor and onetime U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter, apparently never received his party's talking points when it comes to the debate over Confederate monuments.
On CNN's "AC 360" Wednesday night, host Anderson Cooper asked Young about his support for cities and states keeping Confederate monuments in place, even after the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. White supremacists showed up in Charlottesville to protest the city's plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Anti-fascist counterprotesters also showed up to the rally, leading to clashes that resulted in the deaths of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police officers who were killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the violence.
The controversy in Charlottesville led many cities and states across the country to push for the removal of other Confederate statues. The mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, for example, pushed to move a Confederate statue from outside a downtown courthouse to a veterans cemetery located just outside the city.
In Baltimore, crews took down several Confederate monuments under the cover of night.
On Wednesday, Charlottesville city crews covered up two Confederate statues, one of Gen. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson in Justice Park and another statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park.
Yet, amid all the discussion over whether Confederate statues should stay or go, Young took a surprising stance.
Cooper noted at the beginning of the segment Wednesday night that Young supports keeping the statues where they are.
"Can you talk a little about why you feel that way and what you think the focus really should be on?" Cooper asked.
Young responded that "we should focus on substance and not symbols."
"We took the Confederate flag down and I'm almost sorry because it cost us the Affordable Care Act, which is about $14.9 billion and 70,000 health care jobs that Georgia missed and we got the flag but nobody got any health care benefits," Young said.
Civil Rights Leader Andrew Young on Confederate statues: "We should focus on substance and not symbols" https://t.co/8cuP4gr3YC
— CNN (@CNN) August 24, 2017
The former Atlanta mayor was seemingly referring to what he called the "forgotten Americans" Sunday on NBC News's "Meet the Press."
“I feel uncomfortable condemning the Klan types is – they are almost the poorest of the poor. They are the forgotten Americans, and they have been used and abused and neglected," Young told NBC's Chuck Todd.
"Instead of giving them affordable health care, they give them black lung jobs, and they’re happy, and that just doesn’t make sense in today’s world. Most of the issues that we’re dealing with now are related to poverty, but we still want to put everything in a racial context,” Young said.
Young added that the Klan types "see progress in the black community and on television and everywhere, and they don’t share it.”
Young's argument for why Confederate monuments should stay in place echo the argument that President Donald Trump made throughout the 2016 campaign, which was that the "forgotten man and forgotten woman" in the West Virginia coal mines or the Michigan factory would be "forgotten no more."
On Tuesday night during a speech in Phoenix, Trump spoke to this part of his base specifically on the issue of Confederate monuments.
“They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” Trump told the Phoenix audience.