Politics

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 talked to reporters at the state capitol building on Aug. 15 about removing Confederate monuments and violence at the Charlottesville white supremacist rally.

Listen to the full audio below:

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.

During an impromptu press conference on Tuesday, Bevin said there should be “no tolerance” for racism and bigotry, but also called it a “dangerous precedent” to remove monuments of historic figures, comparing it to violent regimes throughout history.

“When you look at what people like a 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 of history, you try to be revisionist,” Bevin said. “You look what people are doing with ISIS, with the destruction of any kind of history of a different culture when they move into a new territory.”

In the case of the state capitol’s white marble statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Bevin said that its tenure should be left up to the Historic Properties Advisory Commission, which oversees the placement of statues in the capitol rotunda.

Bevin’s position amounts to a reversal from his standpoint in 2015, when he said that it would be “appropriate” to remove Davis’ likeness from the rotunda. 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 Davis statue was commissioned in 1932 using funds raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and a $5,000 appropriation from the Kentucky legislature.

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

“There’s no side in any of the hatred that is more right than the other side that is spewing hatred,” Bevin said. “The problem is when you have people who are diametrically opposed to each other, but each as hateful as the next, clashing with one another and willing to take the life of an innocent person for some reason that they may not even fully understand, there’s something wrong with that.”

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.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.