Republicans in Congress and other Bowser critics quickly denounced the document, focusing on the suggestion about monuments — prompting Bowser, a moderate Democrat, to remove that page from the report.
Asked Friday about the controversial timing and rollout of the report, Bowser cited the need to learn more about people’s unease with “questionable” monuments in the city. In June, amid nationwide racial justice demonstrations and calls to remove monuments of historical figures with racist legacies, protesters in the District toppled and burned a statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike.
“I thought it was a good idea to understand the full breadth of issues of concern, people of concern or markers of concern in the District,” Bowser said at a news conference. “It was not our intention to do anything with the federal monuments and memorials.”
The report recommended renaming dozens of public schools, government buildings and parks in the city named after figures with ties to slavery and oppression, including former U.S. presidents.
But Bowser said Friday that critics had run with a misleading narrative — that her committee wanted well-known federal monuments in the city to be significantly changed — causing her to ask the group to refocus its recommendations on local sites in D.C.
Congressional backlash around the committee’s report continued Friday. Republican Reps. James Comer (Ky.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) said the working group’s recommendations were “absurd,” and in a letter called on Bowser to provide them with documents and communications related to the proposals.
“D.C.’s radical city leaders want to cancel some of the nation’s Founding Fathers and erase history,” Comer, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said in a statement.
The Republican leaders said they were perturbed by the initial report’s suggestion to remove or contextualize federal monuments — even though these structures are no longer included in Bowser’s committee’s recommendations.
“There are a lot of different and heated positions on this. No two people tend to think the same thing when you talk about this, and I think the diversity of views was reflected in the working group’s initial report,” Bowser said. “I understand, however, that people will intentionally misconstrue things, and that is why the report was adjusted so the federal portion was removed.”