“A Fact Too Good To Check”: The Post Admits That The Claimed Descendant Who Denounced Gen. Lee Was Not A Descendant

There is an extraordinary column in the Washington Post from Glenn Kessler on a key figure in past coverage on the removal of Confederate statues.  The Post ran a widely cited article on how Robert E. Lee’s own descendant wanted the general’s statues to be removed. The problem is that no one at the Post appears to have actually checked to see if Rev. Robert W. Lee was an actual descendant. It now appears that he is not, according to Kessler. While Kessler strangely does not believe this warrants his signature “Pinocchios,”  he should be credited for doing something that no one in the media seemed inclined to do: confirm the story, even belatedly. It was, as the old journalistic saying goes, “a fact too good to check.”

Kessler is rebounding from a controversy over what many viewed as a “hit job” that he wrote on Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) in which he suggested that Scott had lied about this family history. Despite an accusatory headline, Kessler actually found nothing that refuted Scott’s “from cotton to Congress” account.  This family claim by Rev. Lee may have been entirely fabricated and certainly was made without clear factual basis.

Rev. Lee was lionized by the Post and other media after he denounced Gen. Lee at the MTV Video Music Awards.

“My name is Robert Lee the Fourth. I am a descendent of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin. Today, I call on everyone with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on.”

The media could not get enough of the image and Rev. Lee fueled the frenzy. In an opinion article in The Washington Post, June 7, 2020, Rev. Lee was identified as “Plaintiff Reverend Robert Wright Lee IV (“Lee”) is a white resident of Iredell County. Lee is the fourth great-nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.”

Even lawyers took the claim at face value in what could be viewed as an even more serious breach. In a lawsuit seeking removal of a Confederate statue, filed in Iredell County, the court was told “Plaintiff Reverend Robert Wright Lee IV (“Lee”) is a white resident of Iredell County. Lee is the fourth great-nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.”  Lawyers are not allowed to make such representations to the Court without a good-faith basis, particularly on the background of a key party. Lee is prominently featured as the second named Plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The Post has found no evidence that Rev. Lee is in any way related to Gen. Lee.  He may be just a guy named Lee.

Kessler noted that “the Rev. Robert W. Lee IV has, since 2016 “parlayed his ancestry on behalf of what many may regard as a noble cause” — not to mention parlayed to international notoriety.

What is interesting is that Rev. Lee does not contest that he has been falsely claiming the distinction. He issued a statement on Sunday that notably did not contest the findings or, more importantly, supplied any proof of his earlier claims. Instead, he cites his own credentials as an anti-racism activist:

“My mission and ministry has been confronting white supremacy as a sin. Regardless of whether you believe me or the article, the fact remains that either lineage participated and profited from racism and slavery. That ends with me.”

What was more curious is Rev. Lee previously harrumphing at the notion that anyone in the media was focusing on whether his claim of being a descendant was actually true: “Why the Post is so focused on my heritage and lineage while not focusing on the issues of the statue at hand is beyond me.”

It was certainly beyond most in the media who were only interested in using the image of a Lee descendant to support the removal of statue regardless of the truth of the matter. Rev. Lee used his claim to elevate his voice above others and add the support of a Lee family member to the cause of removing these statues. He then expressed surprise that anyone is interested in confirming if he misled millions on this claim.

The appeal of using a descendent to make such demands is obvious. The media did the same thing with a descendent of Thomas Jefferson.  The suggestion is that, if the family does not even support these statues, only racists or reactionaries would fight to preserve them.  The effort is to cut short a needed debate over how to describe what statues should be removed and what should be retained.

I have been writing and speaking for years about the movement to remove statues that range from confederate leaders to Columbus to Supreme Court justices to Founders (here  and here and here and here). I specifically  wrote about the call for the removal of monuments to George Washington and others as the list lengthens of figures to be cleansed from public historical displays.

As I have previously written, there are statues that should be removed but it is important that such decisions are made collectively and with circumspection:

Two decades ago, I wrote a column calling for the Georgia legislature to take down its statue of Tom Watson, a white supremacist publisher and politician who fueled racist and anti-Semitic movements. Watson was best known for his hateful writings, including his opposition to save Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager accused of raping and murdering a girl. Frank was taken from a jail and lynched by a mob enraged by such writings, including the declaration of Watson that “Frank belongs to the Jewish aristocracy, and it was determined by the rich Jews that no aristocrat of their race should die for the death of a working class Gentile.”

Yet today there is no room or time for such reasoned discourse, just destruction that often transcends any rationalization of history.

The parading of claimed distant relatives calling for removals is a powerful way to undermine arguments that we are wiping away our own history rather than presenting these figures in their proper context.

Rev. Lee knew that his views on the removal of statues was not nearly as important as his self-identity as a descendant of Gen. Lee. Yet, the fact that he may not have any familial connection to the general is being dismissed by Lee and others. It was useful as a narrative at the time and served its purpose.

The fact that it may be “fake news” is barely worth a mention on most news sites that ran with the story.  It is an example of the corrosive effect of advocacy journalism. It comes at too high a price — in this case for both Rev. Lee and the media. As Gen. Lee noted “Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or keep one; the man who requires you to do so is dearly purchased at a sacrifice.”

79 thoughts on ““A Fact Too Good To Check”: The Post Admits That The Claimed Descendant Who Denounced Gen. Lee Was Not A Descendant”

  1. These kind of stories are a formof leftist porn. Too good to have to fact check. Plus the “Rev. Lee” gets to virtue signal with his suburban, upper middle class neighbors and they’ll think he is a great guy.

    Well, I am descended from Spanish Conquistadors; and while I am aware of that history, I neither romanticize, nor condemn it. My ancestors brought Western, Christian civilization to aboriginal peoples living in the New Stone Age. So lefties,


    And I don’t even care if I am invited to your next wine and cheese party.


  2. Half truth given as whole truth remains untruth. Therefore, how can such a publication or the author be trusted?

  3. Emerald Robinson Latin cross
    Don’t be distracted by UFOs or Prince Harry or Liz Cheney or any other nonsense.
    Only one thing matters right now: the audits!

  4. “’A Fact Too Good To Check’: The Post Admits That The Claimed Descendant Who Denounced Gen. Lee Was Not A Descendant”

    – Professor Turley

    In Arizona, The People Who Oppose The Ballot Audit Are The People Who Stole The Ballots


    “The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (MCBOS) are doing all they can to stop the audit of the 2020 election by the Arizona Senate. Today they are begging for the Senate to stop ‘for the good of the country’ but last week they were claiming the auditors were inept.”

    – Gateway Pundit

  5. I don’t understand the appeal of the opinions of descendants. There are many descendants of Civil War soldiers, whose ancestors fought, were maimed, or died in order to free the slaves. Yet they today claim that the US still owes black people Reparations, regardless if those black people descended from American slaves or not.

    I’m pretty sure those ancestors, lying in blood on the battlefield, would find their descendants spoiled and ignorant of their sacrifice.

    There are descendants of soldiers of the Revolution would throw away the rights their ancestors fought for, with both hands, because they don’t understand how precious those rights are.

    What is lineage without wisdom? This applies to Prince Harry, as well.

    1. Absolutely, Karen S, neither the sins nor laurels can be inherited from the parent.


      Not to put too fine a point on it but, clearly, the mindset of Lincoln et al. was to “free” and repatriate the slaves.

      “There are many descendants of Civil War soldiers, whose ancestors fought, were maimed, or died in order to free the slaves.”

      – Karen S

      Early Experiences

      In 1842 Lincoln married Mary Todd, who came from one of Kentucky’s most prominent slave-holding families.2 While serving as an elected representative in the Illinois legislature, he persuaded his fellow Whigs to support Zachary Taylor, a slave owner, in his successful 1848 bid for the Presidency.3 Lincoln was also a strong supporter of the Illinois law that forbid marriage between Whites and Blacks.4

      “If all earthly power were given me,” said Lincoln in a speech delivered in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854, “I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.” After acknowledging that this plan’s “sudden execution is impossible,” he asked whether freed Blacks should be made “politically and socially our equals?” “My own feelings will not admit of this,” he said, “and [even] if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not … We can not, then, make them equals.”5

      One of Lincoln’s most representative public statements on the question of racial relations was given in a speech at Springfield, Illinois, on June 26, 1857.6 In this address, he explained why he opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have admitted Kansas into the Union as a slave state:

      There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas …

      Racial separation, Lincoln went on to say, “must be effected by colonization” of the country’s Blacks to a foreign land. “The enterprise is a difficult one,” he acknowledged,

      but “where there is a will there is a way,” and what colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be.

      To affirm the humanity of Blacks, Lincoln continued, was more likely to strengthen public sentiment on behalf of colonization than the Democrats’ efforts to “crush all sympathy for him, and cultivate and excite hatred and disgust against him …” Resettlement (“colonization”) would not succeed, Lincoln seemed to argue, unless accompanied by humanitarian concern for Blacks, and some respect for their rights and abilities.

      – Robert Morgan

  6. I love this site, I think Prof Turley is excellent in his writings and on his television appearances and I truly admire his fealty to the First Amendment, but if I could make one request it would be for this blog to not allow various people to use the name “Anonymous”. Prof Turley please make it Anonymous1, Anonymous B, something to differentiate between the various Anonymous writers. I say this because there is one guy that is ruining the comments section by his excessive writing and writing and writing. I will not admire Turley and then call for this jokers banning, but if they were numbered we would all know which guy to ignore.

    Maybe institute and 25 comments a day limit as a way to prevent one fool from ruining a site.

    1. Hullbobby is right. The trump asseaters need a place to congregate and be themselves since Parler and Gab didn’t work out. And trump’s blog was such poor quality. Here is my personal commitment to not crack on the asseaters, even if they troll my answers to Turley.


  7. Does it bother anyone that a preacher lied to do what he considers good? I am the first to say that I am for removing the Confederate statues, but it needs to be a deliberate process. I would personally choose to remove them because they raised arms against the United States and should not be honored. Yet, it needs to be deliberate so as not to let the passions run wild. This preacher does more harm to his cause by lying because what else is he lying about. Also, there are pro-statue proponents that need their day too.

    As for the newspaper, they get a black eye and it is deserved. They did acknowledge it and that deserves consideration because mistakes do happen even in the best of circumstances. That is why there are retractions and corrections in papers.

    The press really needs to start fact checking more vigorously for their own sake.

    On another front, I am a Nigerian Prince trying to get money out of my country and if you help me……

    1. Leave the Confederate statues alone. Why not take down the statue of Lenin in Seattle instead?


        Take down the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, District of Corruption.

        The American Founders provided freedom in the Constitution, under which the “pursuit of happiness” was facilitated.

        Heinous “Crazy Abe” Lincoln shredded the Constitution and American freedom, plunging America into internecine war and employing wanton violence and brutality, by refusing to end slavery using any and all licit means available under the Constitution.

    2. I am for removing the Confederate statues, but it needs to be a deliberate process. I would personally choose to remove them because they raised arms against the United States and should not be honored.

      There is a very good reason the Statues were erected in the first place.
      The surrender was an agreement that the South would lay down arms, and the North would not prosecute those that fought. No discrimination of penalty against those States. or the citizens of the States.
      We forget, the citizens were citizens of a STATE. that had agreed to join a union. But the STATE and the CITIZEN of the STATE were the true sovereigns. Today most people consider themselves Americans, citizens of the United States, that have an address in a state. Very different attitude than the time of the civil war, and it was a much more accurate representation of the Constitution.

      The people should be deciding for themselves who is remembered and honored. Not mobs of wokesters ignorant of their own history, intent on tell others how to live their lives.

  8. Typically, the Washington Post is unreliable. That the same goes for MSM is abominable. The left uses misinformation to push their beliefs that are dreams and used to enhance the power of the elite followers.

    In the twentieth century, we should not forget that over 100 million people died outside of war because of the misguided beliefs of the left.

    1. .S. Meyer: “over 100 million people died outside of war because of the misguided beliefs of the left.”
      I am not sure they were literally misguided. They were right on target. They meant [and mean] to kill.

      Evil rather than misguided.

      1. Young, that is correct. The elites got what they wanted. The leftists followers were misguided by those elites and got what they didn’t expect.

        1. Well, yes, the many who went to the guillotine to their surprise during the Terror, the Krondstadt Sailors in Russia and, come to think of it, the American people with this election/coup. Amazing how quickly things can turn to crap, isn’t it?

          1. “the many who went to the guillotine ”

            When our friendly leftist bloggers such as Anonymous the Stupid and Bug face the guillotine, I doubt the loss of their heads will diminish the herd’s intellectual capacity.

            1. Darren? Boundary question…, I believe Art Deco got the bum rush for a similar suggestion?

              1. Not that I care, but it does seem like a housekeeping issue.

                eb 1969

              2. Anonymous the Stupid, I didn’t advocate any such boundary issue. I also don’t know what Art Deco said. I pointed out your stupidity and your lack of knowledge of history, including the French Revolution, where those groupies like you lost their heads. If anything, I was telling you to forgo stupidity and keep your head intact.

                You are a dummy and a whiner.

                You are a malicious person and should be removed from the list based on all of your actions. At the very least you should be forced to carry a consistent name and an icon. That is my opinion.

                1. Art Deco suggested violence, Allan. Maybe in little more of a cutting way than you are because pure sarcasm was his vehicle…, but you’re getting close.

                  I actually don’t wish for you to get thrown out of here because I suspect this place is basically your life and it would destroy you to have to leave.

                  As far as a solid ID, mine is actually more solid than the ones you bounce between…, although I’ll be marking myself with a number for the sake of hullbobby’s needing to know so he can ignore me.

                  eb 2008

                  1. Anon eb 2008: “I’ll be marking myself with a number for the sake of….”
                    Good idea! Try 666.

                  2. Bug, Nothing you say is credible, but Art Deco could be pretty sarcastic, and sarcasm can sometimes be misunderstood, especially on a blog of this nature. I don’t know the words of the Deco posting or its context. I don’t know if the decision took into account other names or responses.

                    Your ID is far from solid or honest. I don’t care that much because your impact is negligible and what you write tells everyone they need to know.


  9. General Lee was a great and honorable man who deserved better fake descendants.

    Those who personally knew him, including General Grant and many other officers in the army he fought against, had enormous respect for him.

    1. Yes, he had many positive qualities, and arguments against him are separable, and we could, and perhaps should, be discerning and avoid conflating them. For one, while he represented the Confederacy that represented, in part, slavery and diversity, he also represented a population with benign interests and differences of opinion.

      1. Something that seems incomprehensible to many today is that honor, honesty and dedication to duty are supreme values and General Lee had both in abundance.

  10. I have ‘splained to you before. And I shall ‘splain to you again. There are no such things as “newspapers,” “journalists,” “schools,” “colleges,” or “universities” anymore. There are only Leftist Indoctrination Entities (“LIEs”). So, yes, there are plenty of presstitutes, but a paucity of journalists. It’s all about the creation and dissemination of propaganda. It’s the same reason that the Associated Press wanted to be in the same office building as Hamas.
    Both actively support terrorism, leftism, and lies.That’s the principle at work in this story and in the countless others that will follow. As Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “One [such story] is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad of instances and applications?”

    The propaganda technique of using “one of their own” to attempt to denigrate or marginalize a group is one of the oldest techniques in the book. It’s really exactly the same technique that the media presstitutes used, for example, when their extolled Liz Cheney as “one of their own” (i.e., “one of [the Republican Party’s] “own”) to promote their hatred of genuine patriots. Never mind that Cheney is a RINO, not a genuine Republican, and certainly not a patriot. The fraudulent optics are sufficient for the presstitutes.

  11. When you weaponize language, it will become less destructive over time. That time is shorter now, and we may soon see the word “racist” evoke no more than a shrug. If everyone is racist, it’s the new normal. I think we’ll see that with “fake news”. Fact-checking was always a bother, and a bore. But we’re seeing that now, if you even bother to do it, and catch someone in a lie, then it’s you who is attacked, not the liar. The very fact that you check for the truth means you’re one of them, the “enemy”. The exposure of something as “fake” has become suspect in the culture war. The liar and supporters use it to attack the lie-exposer. And we’re seeing it works.

  12. Robert E. Lee wanted no memorials or statues in his honor. On a side note, the projection from the Trump cult is just sad, so very sad and disappointing that they cannot bring themselves to reality.

      1. When I was 17, I worked the County Home farm that my sister and her husband managed. The residents of the home were mentally challenged to various degrees. They seemed odd at first, but several were allowed to take on certain tasks on the farm and their various behaviors stopped surprising me. Fishwings and Natacha would have blended in with those residents.

    1. All politicians lie, Trump supporters want to believe the lies. There’s a difference.

  13. Since when are “nephews” descendants? Descendants are children and their descendants – periods. Nephews are relatives but they’re not descendants. We had a Democrat running for Congress in my district who claimed he was “descended” from Sam Houston. Then he came out and said Sam Houston was his great-uncle. Of course, he lost the election even though Democrats poured millions into his campaign. Besides, claiming a famous person as a relative from several generations back is pure old balderdash. As it is, a person has A MILLION DIRECT ANCESTORS at the Fourteenth Generation.

    1. Actually nephews are descendants. There are two types of descendants direct and collateral. Direct can trace their lineage right to a given person in a direct line. Child, parent, grand-parent, great-grand-parent and so forth. Collateral can trace their lineage to a person, but not directly. Aunt, uncle, great-aunt. Maybe the easiest way to think about this is the direct descendants are the trunk and the collateral are the branches of the tree.

  14. A lying preacher, shamelessly seeking fifteen minutes of woke fame on MTV. At least Swaggart was defrocked.

  15. There are only a handful of businesses spelled out by name and mandated by the U.S. Constitution. The Press is actually listed in the U.S. Constitution so why not help fund Press organizations by indexing it to the military budget?

    Federal government agencies actually retaliate and intimidate investigative journalism from McCarthyism to the “War-On-A-Tactic” after 9/11. In the 21st Century the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used against investigative journalism. It is a felony crime for federal officials to exploit the EA in this manner when it violates core constitutional rights but there are no police on beat (Title 18 US Code 245 and Title 42 USC 1983). Congress would be better off to abolish the EA statute altogether since it’s rarely been used for it’s legitimate and intended purpose. Press organizations have spend money to combat this illegal conduct by federal agencies.

    If we can fund the military why not fund a vital other vital businesses required for our system to function properly? The Press and Post Offices (listed by name in the U.S. Constitution).

    If the Press had independent funding to counter retaliation by federal executive branch agencies, it benefits the American people. In this case maybe they would have had more financial resources to dig deeper more easily.

    1. “The press” as refered to in the constituion is a system, proccess or vocation. While some have monetized the system, just because “reporting” does not generate revenue, makes it no less “press”.

      Of course just because it is numerated in the constitution, does not grant it access to the citizens industry.

      As a thought experimnent, try to determine how many guns, and how much ammo per year should be delivered to each citizen of age.

      1. We fund other occupations, not listed by name in the U.S.Constitution, like police and fire departments (which I support) – why shouldn’t the Press be funded since it’s vital to our form of democracy? Only informed voters can self-govern in our form of government. This would help minimize the whole fakes news nonsense. Not taking any money away from military funding but just index it to military spending to keep up with inflation or increased expenses.

        1. Funding a “freedom” introduces a novel bias. Also, America was founded as specifically not a democracy in order to mitigate progress of the democratic/dictatorial duality.

        2. Police and fire are not federal.

          The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

          Have you come up with how many guns the feds are going to provide me.

    2. PBS, NPR??? They are too easily swayed by whomever is in power and appointing board members. A free press must be have Freedom of Press from any government support.

    1. Mr. Turley desperately needs to have someone proofread his posts – “find the typos” is a constant distraction from reading his otherwise fine commentaries.

      1. Don’t you mean: “Mr. Turley, desperately needs too have some-one proof read his posts; “find the typos”, is an constant distraction from reading his other-wise fine commentaries.”

  16. Once again, the media let us down.

    Deliberate neglect or honest mistake?

    Mr. Kessler (for once) did his job.

    The real issue is that we as consumers of news need to be vigilant. Once discredited, media sources like CNN, NYT, Fox, and WaPo need to be discarded.

    Then there are posters like Natasha who make up their own version of the truth.

    1. Once again, the media let us down.

      Deliberate neglect or honest mistake?

      They can’t let you down if you don’t ever take their reporting at face value. I took Darren’s recommendation and use an RSS aggregator (Feedly) to receive feeds from multiple sources. It’s up to me to determine what is fact-based news reporting and opinion.

      Perhaps a “news” and “opinion” credit scoring system would encourage outlets to do their due diligence on the front end.

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