Tennessee governor slammed online for signing Confederate General proclamation

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) is taking heat online this week after signing a proclamation declaring Saturday a day of observation to honor a former Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader.

Lee had proclaimed Saturday Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, according to The Tennessean. Under state law, Tennessee’s governor must issue proclamations for six days of special observation, three of which pertain to the Confederacy, the paper noted.

In addition to July 13’s Forrest Day, Tennessee governors are also required by law to proclaim Jan. 19 Robert E. Lee Day and June 3 as Confederate Decoration Day, also known as Confederate Memorial Day. 

{mosads} “I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven’t looked at changing that law,” Lee said Thursday, according to the Tennessean. He declined to say whether he believed the state law should be changed. 

“I haven’t even looked at that law, other than knowing I needed to comply with it, so that’s what I did,” Lee said. “When we look at the law, then we’ll see.”  

Social media users blasted the governor for not fighting against the law requiring governors to designate a day to Forrest.

Jamelle Bouie, a columnist for The New York Times, tweeted, “very cool that tennessee has a day honoring a confederate war criminal and founder of america’s oldest and deadliest terrorist group.”

Jane Coaston, a politics reporter for Vox, wrote “We are still living with the failures of Reconstruction and the falsehoods of the ‘Lost Cause,’ ” a term that refers to a reframing of the Civil War that objects to the centrality of slavery and casts the Confederacy as heroic.

Others were also quick to criticize the governor about his proclamation.

According to the Tennessean, Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Decoration Day have been special days of observation in the state since 1969.

In his gubernatorial campaign and into his first weeks in office, Lee said he was opposed to removing a bust of Forrest from its location outside the statehouse’s Senate and House chambers, the paper noted. According to the outlet, Lee said he believed it would be a “a mistake to whitewash history.”

Lee later told reporters he would be open to adding historical context to the bust after facing questions about his intentions to do so, though he has taken no action to add such context, the paper reported.

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