Rep. Chris Stewart says a divided America creates danger of ‘national suicide'

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Rep. Chris Stewart speaks in Salt Lake City on Aug. 2, 2019.

Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, intended to talk Monday about national security dangers from such countries as China and Russia. Instead, he pivoted to point out what he says is the only real threat that could destroy America.

“I worry that we may destroy ourselves, that we may commit national suicide,” the Utah Republican said during an online speech Monday to the conservative Sutherland Institute.

Then he ticked off some signs that America is not healthy and might destroy itself unless it changes course.

“A healthy nation would not tear down its Founding Fathers and the statues of them,” he said. “A healthy nation wouldn’t have demonstrations where it’s OK to assault the police.”

Stewart said he sees a root to such problems.

“No one knows what is true anymore,” he said. “Our trust in the media has been destroyed because of their active deception. Our trust in some political organizations has been destroyed because of active deception.”

He called on Americans to take another look at the nation’s history to see that while it is not perfect, it still offers perhaps the world’s greatest hope for bringing freedom and prosperity to all people — and is not “based upon evil” so that it needs to be torn down and rebuilt.

Stewart used slavery, and some Founding Fathers who were slaveholders, as an example.

“It was a terrible stain on our history,” he said. “But we recognize that we fought the Civil War to change that. And we have tried to get better since.”

Stewart acknowledged that Jim Crow laws increased racism but said the civil rights movement of the 1960s helped move forward from that. He said the nation still needs to make more strides against racism.

“But I don’t think because we have been imperfect in these things and now there are still some of those elements that may exist that we therefore say, ‘Well, the United States is an evil country and we should destroy it and tear it down and start over,‘” he said. “I know that sounds extreme, but some people believe it.”

He said schools no longer teach about Founding Fathers or presidents praying to seek guidance, and warned that if parents don’t teach that history, all their children “are going to see is the statue of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson and George Washington be pulled down because they’re told they’re not honorable people.”

Stewart said America has been the greatest force for good in the history of the world and gave some examples that he hopes Americans will not forget as they look at its imperfections.

“We have sacrificed some of the best young men and women in our nation to defend freedom all over the world and have asked nothing for it,” he said.

“Tell me the things that impact your life: the good things, the good technology, the innovations that are positive impacts on your life. And then ask how many of those came from the United States and how many of them came from China?” he said. “The vast majority of them were birthed here.”

He said America also surpasses all other nations in its generosity to those in need, both here and abroad.

“Taken together, I think it’s clear what a positive force for good the United States has been,” he said. “If your measure is perfection, there is no other nation that comes closer to it than the United States.”

Stewart said it is important for Americans to overcome division and unite on the basic principles that created and built the country.

“The United States is the glue that holds the world together,” he said. “If we stumble, the rest of the world crumbles underneath our feet.”

As he took some questions, Stewart made a claim that China intentionally spread COVID-19 around the world.

“It’s a reality that China could have prevented the coronavirus, but they essentially said at some point, ‘Hey, we know this is going to be devastating to our country economically. We’re going to make sure that other nations feel the same pain,’ and they allowed that virus to be spread,” he said. “They allowed thousands of people to leave Wuhan and travel around the world knowing they would spread that virus.”

Stewart isn’t the first to claim that China deliberately allowed the virus to spread. President Donald Trump made that very assertion in June but quickly acknowledged that it could just as well have been unintentional. The president conceded he had no evidence to support the assertion.

Stewart didn’t offer such evidence Monday.