Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie did not disclose his associations with Confederate groups on a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee prior to his confirmation hearing last year, according to a copy of the form obtained by CNN’s KFile.
CNN’s KFile reported in December that Wilkie, who was confirmed by the Senate as VA secretary in July 2018, gave a speech to a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 2009 and, in 1995, praised Confederate President Jefferson Davis in a speech at the US Capitol. Wilkie was also at one point a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, The Washington Post previously reported.
Wilkie was required to disclose in a sworn statement submitted to the Senate committee his public statements, published materials and memberships he held in organizations over the past decade. Wilkie, however, did not disclose any of his ties to Confederate groups. Wilkie signed the questionnaire affirming that the information provided is “to the best of his/her knowledge and belief, current, accurate, and complete.”
Curt Cashour, a spokesperson for Wilkie, did not answer questions as to why the secretary did not list the associations on the questionnaire. Instead, Cashour provided the same statement he had provided for a story published in December.
“Whether the handful of events took place close to a decade ago or 15-20 years ago, Secretary Wilkie gave his best recollection of his participation in them, and emphasized that they were strictly historical in nature, almost all official and bipartisan, and he stopped participating in them once the issue became divisive. He was not aware that the remarks had been published, and, as he stated, he did not keep copies of the remarks,” Cashour said.
He continued, “Once again, the broad issue of his participation in the events based on his best recollection was addressed in depth at the Secretary’s two Senate confirmation hearings for DoD and VA positions in 2017 and 2018, and Secretary Wilkie underscored that he served proudly on Condoleezza Rice’s National Security Council staff. Both committees and the full Senate confirmed him overwhelmingly for the positions.”
On the questionnaire, Wilkie was asked to list “all memberships that you have held in professional, social, business, fraternal, scholarly, civic, or charitable organizations in the last ten years.”
Wilkie listed past and current membership in organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations and Jesse Helms Foundation, but did not list his former membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A Pentagon spokesman told The Washington Post in June 2018 that Wilkie no longer counted himself a member of the group. The Sons of Confederate Veterans’ magazine, Confederate Veteran, listed Wilkie as a “compatriot” and the current chairman of the Confederate Memorial Committee in its April/March 2010 issue, indicating the group still listed him as a member.
Wilkie attended events honoring the legacy of Robert E. Lee and service of Confederate veterans as recently as 2009.
In a section on public statements, Wilkie was asked for “any speeches or talks delivered by you, including commencement speeches, remarks, lectures, panel discussions, conferences, political speeches, and question-and answer sessions. Include the dates and places where such speeches or talks were given.”
Wilkie provided general answers, writing, “Multiple remarks, panel discussions and speeches as a congressional staffer and as Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel & Readiness.” He did not give details of any of his specific speeches.
Wilkie delivered two speeches on Robert E. Lee in 2009, one to a branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the DC area and one at Arlington National Cemetery. His speech on Davis took place in the US Capitol in 1995.