State Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus took to the well on Monday to address the comments made by Rep. Tommie Benton about Senator Vincent Fort’s sponsorship of a bill that would have stopped the state from celebrating Confederate holidays. In a statement to the AJC, Benton compared Fort’s bill to ISIS, and praised the work of the Ku Klux Klan. You can watch McKoon’s remarks below.
While he didn’t refer to him by name, McKoon called Rep. Benton’s comments about the Klan contemptible, wrong, and deserving of the strongest condemnation. Saying that the Klan was the original domestic terrorist organization, McKoon hoped that Rep. Benton would apologize for his remarks.
Sen. McKoon then went on to say,
The same person [Benton] who made these comments implied that people, like the Senator from the 39th [Vincent Fort], who disagree with him on certain issues are similar to ISIS. Now, the Senator from the 39th and I rarely agree on public policy issues. We have engaged in vigorous debates, and I’m sure we will again.
But the Senator from the 39th and I share some things. We’re both Americans. We’re both Georgians. We both care passionately about public policy and the people we represent. To compare him to people who want to murder innocent Americans is grotesque, and is beyond the pale.
I have taken this well several times to decry the coarseness of the language we use in our political debates today. The Senator from the 39th should not be stripped of his humanity and demonized because a member disagrees with him. Such rhetoric is beneath the dignity of this body.
Senator McKoon finished his point of personal privilege by asking that everyone in the General Assembly treat each other with dignity and respect. In politics, a robust discussion of the merits of one policy over another is welcome, even essential. The politics of personal destruction, especially when carried on by an elected official, not so much.