The Follies

The Follies

Mixed and confusing signals from NC GOPers on confederate monuments

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger finally weighed in Thursday on the horrible events in Charlottesville last weekend with a Facebook post titled, “Reflecting on Charlottesville, Durham and North Carolina Monuments.”

Berger denounces white supremacists and Nazis but much of his essay is spent attacking Governor Roy Cooper for criticizing a bill passed by the General Assembly that gives immunity to some motorists who run over protesters and for calling for the removal of confederate memorials on public property across North Carolina.

Of course, cities cannot remove the offensive statues on their own. Berger and his colleagues in the General Assembly made sure of that by passing a law in 2015 that forbids local governments from removing the memorials.

The law was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory after the massacre in an African-American church in Charleston by white supremacist Dylan Roof that prompted South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to demand that the confederate flags be removed from the capital grounds.

Berger does not address why local governments were allowed to put up the confederate monuments but are now not allowed to take them down. Somebody should ask him.

Gov. Cooper has also called on the General Assembly repeal the 2015 law and it is the least that Berger and other legislative leaders should do.

Trump’s recent history of racist remarks in North Carolina

Astonishingly, Berger did not mention President Trump at all in his statement. Trump is under fire from leading Democrats and prominent Republicans alike for his remarks at a bizarre and rambling news conference Tuesday where he refused to draw distinctions between the neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville and the counter protesters challenging them.

On Friday, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized Trump and called on him to apologize for his remarks that Romney said “caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn.”

Berger apparently cannot bring himself to join folks like Romney, Senator John McCain, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and others who have called out Trump for as one Republican commentator put it, giving aid and comfort to white supremacists.

Berger and other North Carolina have heard Trump’s racism before. It is worth remembering that Trump was a keynote speaker at the state convention of the N.C. Republican Party in 2012 and in 2015.

In 2012 Trump was a prominent voice in the birther movement, folks claiming that President Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not eligible to serve as president. Trump raised the issue in his 2012 speech to North Carolina Republicans, presumably with Berger and Senators Tillis and Burr in attendance.

In 2015 Trump railed to his NC GOP audience about Mexican immigrants that he said were rapist and murderers.  When he made similar remarks a few weeks later when he was formally announcing his candidacy, a firestorm of protest erupted with many Republicans denouncing those comments too.

But he first made them here in North Carolina with the all the top GOP elected officials in the audience clapping their approval.

Trump being a bigot is nothing new. And many Republicans have attacked him for his racist remarks when he has made them—but not Phil Berger.

Everything is Roy Cooper’s fault.

GOP senator sneaks out the back door to avoid talking about monuments

Cooper’s call to take down the confederate monuments has prompted some interesting behavior from state lawmakers. Senator Tommy Tucker said the Civil War really was not about slavery, it was about tariffs, and thinks the monuments should stay.

Tucker also needs to explain why local governments who constructed the monuments should not have the authority to remove them.

But Tucker’s absurd reaction and gross mischaracterization of history was better than then the response of Sen. Bill Rabon, the chair of the powerful Senate Rules Committee.

WWAY-TV in Wilmington was having a hard time getting Republican lawmakers to respond to Cooper’s call to take the monuments down but found out that Rabon was going to attend a meeting in Southport and planned to interview him there.

But as the WWAY journalist reported, Rabon left out the back door of the meeting to avoid commenting on the monument controversy.

Quite a profile in courage indeed.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.
chris@ncpolicywatch.com
919-861-2066