A statue of Thomas Jefferson was vandalized with the phrase "Racist + Rapist" sprayed around its base with red paint Friday at the University of Virginia — the college that Jefferson, the third president of the United States, founded nearly 200 years ago.
The vandalism on the school's Lawn was discovered Friday — Founder's Day — which would have been Jefferson's 275th birthday, WVIR-TV reported.
"The university is disappointed that individuals vandalized the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Lawn on the day that we honor his contributions to our University and to our democracy," the university said in a statement, the station reported. "The university recognizes the complexities of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy and continues to explore them fully and honestly."
The Charlottesville school added that it "welcomes open and civil discourse on such important issues. However, acts of vandalism do not contribute to meaningful discussion," WVIR reported.
The station said the vandalism likely took place during the overnight hours and that crews had cleaned off the words later Friday morning. Police are investigating.
How has Jefferson been viewed at the college he founded?
Following President Donald Trump's 2016 election, hundreds of UVA students and faculty demanded the college's president Teresa Sullivan stop quoting Jefferson in her emails because doing so “undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.”
At issue is that Jefferson was a slave owner. It's also been claimed that he fathered a child of one his slaves, Sally Hemings, but that notion was challenged in a 2011 book, "The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission."