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Mayor of Richmond calls Confederate monuments 'the fake news of their time'

On 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper took a deep dive into the debate over the removal of Confederate monuments, research that Cooper says CBS began in 2017. 

During his report, Cooper sat down with Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond, Virginia, who during the recent protests over the future of Monument Avenue, made it clear he wants the statues taken down.

"The monuments are just a symbol of the effort to ensure African Americans stayed, maybe not in physical bondage, but in bondage in political and economically in this country and in this city," said Stoney, who added, "Those who chose to erect those monuments, and the figures who are glorified in those monuments, they made some serious attempts to ensure that people who look like me would never hold any political office, ever, in Virginia."

Cooper asked Stoney if, following Charlottesville when white nationalists clashed with protesters over the removal of a Confederate statue, he was surprised by how many people were willing to come out and show their true colors, to which Stoney responded, "I think it woke a lot of people up, not just here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but around the country."

"It is, for me, the greatest example of nostalgia masquerading as history. It's the fake news of their time," stated Stoney.

Cooper also sat down with former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu who, back in 2017, made the controversial decision to remove four Confederate monuments, and shared with Cooper the dangerous risks that came with it.

While Cooper described the scene as looking "like a military operation," due to the fact that construction crews wore bullet proof helmets and vests, and police snipers were stationed on rooftops nearby, Landrieu shared that it was impossible to find a local company that would take on the monumental job. "When we put the thing out to bid, the one contractor that showed up had his life threatened. He had his car bombed," revealed Landrieu. "His car was actually fire-bombed. Death threats were coming in and, so, I couldn't find a crane. I could not find a damn crane."

Landrieu did eventually find a contractor out of state to take down the four monuments, and the former mayor more than stands by his decision.

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Controversy surrounding Confederate memorials

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A monument to former U.S. Vice President and Confederate General John Cabell Breckinridge stands outside the Old Courthouse in Lexington, Ky., U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

A monument to Confederate General John Hunt Morgan stands encased in a protective scaffolding because of local construction, outside the Historic Lexington Courthouse in Lexington, Ky., U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

A municipal worker attempts to remove paint from a monument dedicated to Confederate soldier John B. Castleman that was vandalized late Saturday night in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Municipal workers attempt to remove paint from a monument dedicated to Confederate soldier John B. Castleman that was vandalized late Saturday night in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Protesters gather below a monument dedicated to Confederate Major John B. Castleman while demanding that it be removed from the public square in Louisville, Ky., US, August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

A plaque dedicated to Confederate soldier John B. Castleman is seen after it was vandalized late Saturday night in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Municipal workers attempt to remove paint from a monument dedicated to Confederate soldier John B. Castleman that was vandalized late Saturday night in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

White supremacists carry a shield and Confederate flag as they arrive at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

A member of a white supremacists militia stands near a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 13: Police stand watch near the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the center of Emancipation Park the day after the Unite the Right rally devolved into violence August 13, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue and change the name of the space from Lee Park to Emancipation Park, sparking protests from white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and members of the 'alt-right.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 13: Police stand watch near the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the center of Emancipation Park the day after the Unite the Right rally devolved into violence August 13, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue and change the name of the space from Lee Park to Emancipation Park, sparking protests from white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and members of the 'alt-right.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 12: White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the KKK and members of the 'alt-right' attempt to organize inside Emancipation Park during the Unite the Right rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-facist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

ANNAPOLIS, MD - AUGUST 16: Two women take pictures in front of the statue of US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney that sits in front of the Maryland State House, on August 16, 2017 in Annapolis, Maryland. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has called for the removal of the statue. Taney was the author of the Dred Scott decision. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

LEXINGTON, KY-AUGUST 14: A monument to John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate General during the Civil War, stands near the old Historic Lexington Courthouse August 14, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. The Mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray, announced he has vowed to remove the statue, along with a statue of John C. Breckinridge which also stands at the courthouse, following the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Gray tweeted, 'We cannot let them define our future.' (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

DEMOPOLIS, AL - JUNE 14: The marble statue of a Rebel soldier was unceremoniously toppled from the granite pedestal where he had presided since 1910, on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Demopolis, AL. About 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 16, 2016, an on-duty patrol car with the Demopolis, Ala., Police Department proceeded north on North Main Avenue to the intersection of West Capitol Street, where it crashed into the citys Confederate memorial. The impact of the Dodge Charger broke the statue off at the shins. Undamaged was the inscription on the base: Our Confederate Dead. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS, UNITED STATES - APRIL 3. The Jefferson Davis statue stands across the street from First Grace United Methodist Church in New Orleans, on April 3, 2016. It is one of several confederate statues in the city. (Photo by Ben Depp for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 04: New Orleans police officers stand guard at the Jefferson Davis monument on May 4, 2017 in New Orleans, Loiusiana. The Louisiana House committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs voted Wednesday to advance House Bill 71 that would forbid the removal of Confederate monuments in Louisiana as the City Council in New Orleans tries to move three statues of Confederate luminaries from public spaces and into museums. Protests that have at times turned violent have erupted at the site of the Jefferson Davis Monument after the Battle at Liberty Place monument was taken down in the middle of the night on April 24. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A 1933 statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis is removed from University of Texas' South Mall Sunday after UT President Gregory Fenves cleared it to be placed in a campus museum along with a companion statue of President Woodrow Wilson. Recent racially-motivated shootings in the U.S. have called for reexamining some cultural icons of the Confederate South. (Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

Attorney Kirk Lyons disagrees as a 1933 statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis is removed from University of Texas' South Mall Sunday after UT President Gregory Fenves cleared it to be placed in a campus museum along with a companion statue of President Woodrow Wilson. Recent racially-motivated shootings in the U.S. have called for reexamining some cultural icons of the Confederate South. (Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

ROCKVILLE, MD -May 5, 2016: A life-size bronze statue of a Confederate soldier stands in a grove outside the courthouse on May 5, 2016 in Rockville, MD.(Photo by Eric Kruszewski/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

A 1933 statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis is removed from University of Texas' South Mall Sunday after UT President Gregory Fenves cleared it to be placed in a campus museum along with a companion statue of President Woodrow Wilson. Recent racially-motivated shootings in the U.S. have called for reexamining some cultural icons of the Confederate South. (Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

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"In a city that I represent, that's 67% African American, to have a young African American girl pass by that statue and look at it every day, I ask myself, 'Am I really preparing for her a really good future? Is she feeling like she's getting lifted up by the government, or is she being put down?' I mean, I think the answer's pretty clear. Really, what these monuments were, were a lie," stated Landrieu. Asked to clarify, Landrieu explained, "On the sense that Robert E. Lee was used as an example, to send a message to the rest of the country, and to all the people that lived here, that the confederacy was a noble cause. And that's just not true."

Finally, Landrieu stated, "I really did want to make a definitive statement, as a white man from the south, as the Mayor of a major American city at the dawning of the 21st century, that it's not unclear anymore about what the Civil War was about, and who won, and what the values are that we should really revere."

However, not all agree with the removal of confederate monuments, hence the debate across the country. Professor William J. Cooper, a former professor of history at Louisiana State University for 46 years, told Anderson Cooper that removing the monuments is a mistake and that they are not, in fact, a "false history."

"The monument was put up there by real people who had real beliefs. Maybe we don't like their beliefs. But one of the things that bothers me most as a historian is what I call 'Presentism,' judging the past by the present. Figuring that we are the only moral people, that nobody else could be moral if they didn't think like we think," said the former professor, who also said that the monuments "do celebrate white supremacy." However, removing the monuments is a "slippery slope."

"Should Mount Vernon be up today? Should we go burn Monticello down tomorrow? Certainly Thomas Jefferson believed in white supremacy," said William Cooper.

60 Minutes airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBS.

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