A descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has stepped down as pastor of a North Carolina church after facing backlash over the comments he made supporting racial justice during the MTV Video Music Awards.
Robert W. Lee IV gave the brief speech before introducing Susan Bro, the mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer.
Here's the full speech:
"My name is Robert Lee IV, I’m a descendant 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 all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”
The general's distant nephew released a statement this week, explaining why he resigned from Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, after the church decided to vote on his tenure.
Lee said some church members were uncomfortable with the attention the church was receiving and were concerned that his speech lifted up the Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’ s March and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work.
“I regret that speaking out has caused concern and pain to my church. For this is I offer my heartfelt apology," Lee wrote. "I understand that my views could be considered to be controversial. I never sought this sort of attention. But, I do believe in God’s role in calling out for positive social change for the good of all."
Lee's comments on MTV came in the aftermath of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned violent when demonstrators clashed with counterprotesters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.