Forest: Cooper wrong on monuments


A protester kicks the toppled statue of a Confederate soldier after it was pulled down in Durham, Aug. 14. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said Tuesday Gov. Roy Cooper was responding to "anarchists" and "communist agitators" when he called for removal of all Confederate monuments in the state.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is criticizing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for removing all Confederate monuments in North Carolina, claiming it amounts to being dictated to by “communist agitators” and “anarchists.”

Forest — a likely candidate for governor in 2020 — said the timing of Cooper’s call for removal of the monuments — after one in Durham was vandalized — makes clear the governor was responding to the vandals who destroyed the monument.

“That is not good leadership,” Forest said.

Forest, the speaker for opening convocation at Mid-Atlantic Christian University Tuesday morning, was interviewed about the monument controversy and other topics during an interview with The Daily Advance following his address.

The lieutenant governor said the vandalism of the Confederate monument in Durham — protesters pulled it down — was an act of violence by two communist groups, and people need to remember that communists killed 100 million people.

Forest also defended the state law, passed by the Republican-led General Assembly and signed by former Gov. Pat McCrory in 2015, that prohibits the removal of Confederate and other monuments from state-owned property. Cooper has called for the law’s repeal.

Forest said the bill was put into place by state lawmakers because otherwise, people at the local level would have been deciding what history is and isn’t. Both good and bad things have happened and it all needs to be remembered and learned from, he said. Taking down a monument doesn’t mean that the history won’t repeat itself, he said.

In a statement, a Cooper spokesman reiterated the governor’s belief that the 2015 law should be repealed and that it’s time for the monuments to come down.

“Gov. Cooper believes that Confederate monuments on state property should come down safely and without violence and be relocated to museums or historical sites where we can continue to learn from our past,” the spokesman said. “He opposes a 2015 law that prevents local communities from making their own decisions about whether to remove or relocate monuments.”

Forest, who has not officially announced a bid for governor and who indicated Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to make any announcement of his election plans anytime soon, nevertheless said he is “laying the groundwork now” for a 2020 gubernatorial bid. He said he has been talking to people about a possible run.

He also noted that he is term-limited as lieutenant governor, so seeking re-election to the office is not an option. Forest is only the second Republican elected as lieutenant governor in North Carolina and the first GOP lieutenant governor to be elected to a second term.

Forest said he believes President Donald Trump should have handled his response to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va. better.

“First and foremost, you should just condemn all kinds of terrorist activity and these hate groups that are out there,” Forest said.

Forest said it remains to be seen whether the Republican president will help or hurt GOP candidates in North Carolina in the 2020 election.

“I think it depends on what his record is,” Forest said.

He added that he believes President Trump is getting things done but the accomplishments are being lost on the public because of “six months of distraction about Russia by thy media.”

Forest said Trump bears some responsibility himself for the distraction by not effectively steering the conversation beyond that to his own agenda.

“You can play into the distraction or you can rise above the distraction,” Forest said.

As a statesman you need to be able to rise above the distraction, set the tone for discussion and keep the focus on what you intend to accomplish, he said.

Forest said 2020 is a long way off and he believes a lot of what will happen politically will depend on how the economy is doing at the time and how effective Trump has been in advancing his legislative agenda.