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Bevin Calls Removal Of Confederate Monuments A ‘Sanitization Of History’

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin says that he’s opposed to removing Confederate monuments from public property, calling it a “sanitization of history.”

The statement comes days after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia stemming from a white nationalist protest of that city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

“I absolutely disagree with this sanitization of history,” Bevin said in an interview on WVHU radio in Huntington, West Virginia.

“If we want to learn from history, if we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of our pasts then we better teach it to our young people.”

Bevin later confirmed those comments to reporters at the state Capitol, comparing it to what the Islamic State group does "with the destruction of any kind of history or a different culture when they move into a new territory."

"I think it is a very dangerous precedent to pretend that your history is not your history," Bevin said. "That doesn't mean you have to embrace it. It doesn't mean you agree with it or even like it. But to pretend it does not exist, to remove it from the landscape of discussion and the ability to learn from (it) is a very dangerous proposition."

Bevin also compared efforts to move Confederate statues to some of the history's most murderous regimes.

"When you look at what people like Pol Pot did, or a Stalin did, or a Hitler did, one of the first things you do is remove any semblance of culture and history, you try to be revisionist."

One person died and more than 30 were injured in the Charlottesville rally, where a driver rammed a car into a group of counter-protesters. Two Virginia state troopers also died in a related helicopter crash.

In response, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced plans to remove the statues of two confederate generals from the old Fayette County Courthouse, which is situated on the city’s main street. And Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has ordered a review of all monuments and other public art.

Bevin’s position amounts to a reversal from his standpoint in 2015, when he said that it would be “appropriate” to remove a white marble statue of Jefferson Davis from the rotunda of the state capitol building. He was running for governor at the time.

Kentucky’s NAACP chapter is renewing efforts to remove the statue after the deadly Charlottesville rally.

The Jefferson Davis statue in the capitol rotunda was commissioned in 1932 using funds raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and a $5,000 appropriation from the Kentucky legislature.

During the interview on WVHU, Bevin also echoed President Donald Trump’s initial response to the violent rally, blaming the violence on both the white nationalists and counter protesters.

“As has been said by the president, ‘on all sides,’” Bevin said. “People are offended by the idea that people take exception to a particular type of hatred versus another. All of it is reprehensible.”

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, white nationalists are planning a rally in Lexington in opposition to the proposed removal of confederate statues.

The city’s urban-county council is scheduled to consider a proposal to remove the monuments on Tuesday afternoon.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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