In an appearance on Fox News Monday night, Kelly was asked by host Laura Ingraham about the decision by an Episcopal church in northern Virginia to relocate monuments honouring Lee and George Washington.
“Robert E. Lee was an honourable man,” Kelly responded. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state which 150 years ago was more important than country.
“But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
Both Lee and Washington worshipped at the church but the pair were also slave owners. The men’s history had left some parishioners feeling uncomfortable.
The decision to move the plaques has been under consideration for some time but was pushed forward after the incident in Charlottesville, Virginia which left a woman dead and 19 others hospitalized, a church spokesperson told the Associated Press.
Charlottesville became a rallying point for white nationalists after the city council voted to remove a statue of Lee. The largest gathering, in August, erupted into violence, with attendees and counter-demonstrators brawling in the streets. A woman protesting the white nationalists was killed when a car drove into a crowd.
The U.S. Civil War was fought over slavery; Kelly’s choice of words immediately led to backlash on Twitter.