Beshear: Jeff Davis statue should be removed, Cameron needs to stop playing politics

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The statue of Jefferson Davis, then president of the Confederacy, should be moved from the state Capitol Rotunda to a location of a more historical context, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

And the governor took on Republican state Attorney General Daniel Cameron for using hindsight to play politics with the coronavirus pandemic.

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Responding to a reporter’s question during his daily briefing Thursday about the Davis statue, Beshear said it has no place in the Capitol, which should be welcoming to all Kentuckians.

“I believe the statue of Jefferson Davis is a symbol that divides us. Even if there are those who think it’s a part of history, there should be a better place to put it in historical context. I don’t think it should be in the Capitol Rotunda,” the governor stated.

The images of the Confederacy have been in debate and under fire for years. But the recent protests calling for racial equality and reform have put them back in the spotlight.

Several state and local governments around the country have removed statues and other images in recent days.

In opening his briefing, which came after the end of the two-hour memorial service for George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., Beshear also referenced the broader issue of change.

“There is a call for more broad justice,” he said, referencing to protests and rallies around the state, country and world for Floyd and more locally for Louisville’s Breonna Taylor.

“We need to work to make sure that happens,” Beshear continued, noting the state would unveil some programs Monday that will be steps in that direction.

Beshear also was asked about comments made Thursday by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron in testimony before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary.

Cameron made comments about racial injustice, which was the overriding topic for the committee, but Cameron also talked about COVID-19 and many of Beshear’s orders designed to try to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Cameron called some of the orders unprecedented, “It’s still ongoing even today and there is no requirement for renewal.” He added it’s “devoid of checks and balances.”

Cameron said, “While the law may take periodic naps throughout a pandemic, we will not let it sleep through one.”

Cameron says non-essential businesses were closed “without due process.”

Cameron said he disagrees with the “one size fits all” for all 120 counties in the state and believes the legislature should have more oversight.

Cameron says the executive order also, “led to issues with enforcement in some cities and counties.” He added that, “1,235 conditional commutations across the state, raising a number of safety concerns for prosecutors.”

Cameron says based on the feedback his office received, “more oversight is needed during a state of emergency.” He says the legislature, governor and courts need to, “create exceptions to protect constitutional rights.”

While Cameron said the COVID-19 website was a helpful tool, he complained it there still was “often confusion” regarding recommendations and executive orders.

“Over 20 states have statutory provisions to terminate an executive order from an executive at any time. Some states go even further,” said Cameron.

Cameron suggested allowing the General Assembly permission to terminate a state of emergency at any time.

Rep. Patti Minter asked Cameron what he would have done if he were governor, “I’m not governor.”

He added that he sympathizes with governors trying to keep their people safe but said, “I think you can do it in a way that respects the constitutional rights of our citizens.”

“It’s ultimately up to you the voters to decide, but can you imagine if we had not taken the steps we did,” Beshear said when asked about Cameron’s comments, noting numerous studies, including separate ones by the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, said without the steps, the deaths and illness in the state would be been far worse.

“After we crushed the curve, politics is coming back into it,” the governor continued. “I’m done with politics, but it doesn’t mean others are.

“I recognize every action I took had consequences, but they were taken to  for the life and safety of every Kentuckian…Now it’s about power and the Legislature,” Beshear concluded.