Texas Gov. Greg Abbott denied that he favors removing from the Texas Capitol a Confederate plaque that says slavery was not an underlying cause of the Civil War after a black lawmaker who privately met with the Republican governor earlier Friday said Abbott indicated support for taking it down.
Democratic state Rep. Eric Johnson, who for months has called for removing a plaque titled "Children of the Confederacy Creed," which has hung in the Capitol since 1959, initially praised Abbott following an hour-long meeting in Dallas. He said Abbott had agreed the plaque was inaccurate and, according to Johnson, indicated support for taking it down.
But his mood soured after Abbott's office gave a conflicting account of the meeting, saying the governor did not agree to remove that plaque and that state officials would study the matter.
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"On the plaque, the Governor told Rep. Johnson he would ask the State Preservation Board to look into the issue, specifically the history of the plaque, as well as the history of the removal of a similar plaque at the Texas Supreme Court," his spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said.
Abbott's office did not respond to Johnson's assertion that the governor acknowledged the plaque was historically inaccurate.
Johnson called the governor's characterization of their talk "mind-boggling" and raised the possibility of his staff releasing notes of the meeting.
"It stretches the limits of the imagination to see how you come to a different conclusion after the tone and tenor of that meeting," Johnson said. "Maybe he thought about it afterward and said, `What did I just agree to?"'
The plaque, which was made by the Children of the Confederacy, vows to preserve "pure ideals" and "teach the truths of history." Then it adds: "One of the most important of which is that the war between the states was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery."
Johnson said Abbott stopped short of saying the plaque would be removed. But he said Abbott told him he supports removing inaccurate displays and that he would begin looking into the procedural process for removing a historical marker. The matter would be handled by the caretaker of the Capitol, the State Preservation Board, which has a governing board of lawmakers and state leaders, including Abbott.
Supporting the removal of the plaque would be a shift for Abbott, who in August resisted calls to take down Confederate markers following a deadly clash at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Abbott said at the time that racism and hate-filled violence is never acceptable but that "tearing down monuments won't erase our nation's past."