Ga. Lawmakers Step Back From Confederate Memorial Bills

John Bazemore / Associated Press

State Rep. Tommy Benton (R–Jefferson) on Monday removed himself as the sponsor of bills meant to protect the carvings of Confederate heroes on Stone Mountain and bring prominence to Confederate holidays.

In a simultaneous statement, House Speaker David Ralston (R–Blue Ridge) condemned comments the representative made last week to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Ku Klux Klan wasn’t racist and that they “kept law and order.”

Benton also compared people seeking to remove the carvings of Confederate heroes on Stone Mountain to the terrorist group ISIS.

On his withdrawal, Benton said, “It was not my intention to create a situation whereby my comments would create a negative perception.”

Ralston said, “While we are mindful of our history, the business of the General Assembly isn’t in rewriting or reinterpreting the past, but rather to focus on improving Georgia’s future. I appreciate Chairman Benton’s withdrawal of his sponsorship of the legislation.”

Earlier Monday, Republican Senator Josh McKoon condemned Benton’s statements. McKoon himself has faced criticism for bills that opponents say target LGBT individuals and racial minorities.

“The Klan was the original domestic terrorist organization. There is simply no excusing the murderous, terroristic campaign they waged against Americans,” McKoon said.