Anthony Sabatini dismisses Confederate statue controversy as ‘political theater’

Smith Sabatini
He supports statue leaving U.S. Capitol, says history museum an appropriate locale.

State Rep. Anthony Sabatini says Mayors fighting a relocation of a Confederate statue to Lake County is just “clickbait,” aimed to stoke outrage.

“This wasn’t a controversy until some liberals decided it would be fun to turn the acquisition of the statue into an argument about political correctness,” the Clermont Republican said.

Several Lake County Mayors asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to nix moving a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith to Tavares.

The statue of Smith since 1922 stood as one of two representing Florida figures in the U.S. Capitol.

Earlier this month, DeSantis formally requested Smith’s statue be replaced by one of Mary McLeod Bethune in National Statuary Hall. That follows through with a plan approved by the Florida Legislature last year.

Sabatini said swapping statues was an appropriate thing to do.

“Clearly a Confederate monument is less reflective of Florida than it was 100 years ago, so it was a good decision,” Sabatini said.

“Edmund Kirby Smith’s time has passed, and it doesn’t reflect the state as it once did.”

But the Clermont Republican said the statue remains a vital relic and artifact from Florida’s past. That makes a Florida history museum an appropriate place for its display.

He said the Mayors have no place complaining about the Lake County Historical Society and Museum in Tavares becoming the statue’s home.

“They’re just confused or bored or something,” he said. “It’s really none of their business. It’s a private, nonprofit history museum.”

Some local officials differ in their assessment. Mount Dora Mayor Nick Girone wrote a letter suggesting installing the Smith statue in a region with a history of racial intolerance showed insensitivity, according to the News Service of Florida.

“The bitter irony is the proposed location is a museum located in the same building where 70 years ago the Groveland Four had their lives and reputations ruined,” Girone wrote.

But Sabatini predicted that in a few years, the controversy would settle and only history buffs would even know the statue had moved to a Tavares museum.

He praised the Tavares museum for surfacing as the overwhelming choice for the statue’s new home. Museum officials argued Tavares’ central location in the state made it an ideal locale, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Sabatini stood at odds with other local officials about whether statues should relocate to Lake County.

As a Eustis City Council member, Sabatini in 2017 posted a message that the city could host statues taken down elsewhere.

“To any cities or counties that would like to donate their Confederate monuments to the City of Eustis, we will gladly accept and proudly display our nation’s history. Thank you,” he wrote, as reported by The Daily Commercial.

Eustis officials quickly put out a message clarifying the city took no action to seek statues, and Sabatini made his comments as an individual.

Sabatini now asserts the online remarks were made in jest.

“You are goofball if ever thought that was a real idea,” he said. “If you read the original tweet, it was an attack on political correctness with the statues … My real belief was that we should leave the damn statues alone.”

The message was sent out days after a protest in Charlottesville, Virg., purportedly about the future of a statue there, turned deadly. White nationalist James Fields was since sentenced to life after driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and killing Heather Heyer.

Politicizing Confederate statues is simply staging political theater, Sabatini said.

“It’s a view we should be censoring history,” he added.

And he made clear he considers coverage of controversy around moving the Smith statue falls in the same vein.

“People have to be very stupid to believe I wanted to take all monuments and have them a small town,” he said. “Anyone reporting that is not interested in truth and is just interested in clickbait, much like Florida Politics itself.”

Last updated on July 19, 2019

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


19 comments

  • VoteDem2020

    July 19, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Pretty funny how the self-proclaimed Republican ‘guardians of the Constitution’ are the first to defend the monuments memorializing the traitorous ‘breakers of the Constitution’.

    • Kenneth

      July 20, 2019 at 5:06 pm

      Funny how the same ignorance gets thrown around, yet those supposed “traitors” were the only ones staying within the confines OF the constitution.
      Jefferson Davis in his resignation speech to Congress said that Terry wanted to peacefully leave do to compliance with the original union agreements.
      There was NOTHING “traitorous” about secession, if you actually knew the constitution & bill of rights you wouldn’t support the communist party.
      Ignorance is not bliss..

    • Karl Burkhalter

      July 22, 2019 at 3:27 am

      Treason in 1861 was to the United States, plural. No Confederate was ever prosecuted for Treason because none committed it.

  • Anna Easton

    July 19, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    Send it to the University of the South, Sewanee, TN where Kirby-Smith taught math and botany as a college professor after the Civil War until his death. He is buried there.

  • Paul Siano

    July 19, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    Deluded republicans wanting to keep their confederate statutes and monuments because it’s their heritage. What a pipe dream. That’s one hell of a heritage to have: traitors, white supremacists, slaveholders, lynchers, racists, and segregationists. Shame, embarrassment, and remorse would be more appropriate behavior.

    • Kenneth

      July 20, 2019 at 5:10 pm

      Deluded, traitorous, white supremacists, slave holders existed in the north the South had a few racists but if that was TRULY what you idiot’s claim, that is racism then you would be going after ALL monuments NOT just southern monuments… now there is your pipe dream. Ignorance is not bliss..

    • Karl Burkhalter

      July 22, 2019 at 3:31 am

      Read US Joint Congressional Sub-committee report of July 16 1862. And you will realize how rediculous you sound accusing the South of White Supremacy.

      • gary

        July 22, 2019 at 6:01 pm

        So it was the not the Republicans to have black congressmen? Where do you get your history Karl? A cracker jack box….. bahahaha see what I did there?

        Democrats were, and still are the KKK.

        Give my regards to Margaret Singer when you see your party mate will ya?

        • Barbara Hill

          July 22, 2019 at 6:48 pm

          where did you learn to spell?? Go back to 3rd grade

        • Karl burkhalter

          July 22, 2019 at 8:00 pm

          Jim Crow Laws were imposed on the South to supply Massachusetts Mill’s with cotton DURING the Civil War by the Union Army. The most egregious lie told about Reconstruction is that Jim Crow was created by resurgent Confederates to suppress and dominate Black people. A close examination shows this not only to be incorrect, but almost diametrically the opposite of what really happened.

          From “Civil War in Louisiana” by Winters

          US Treasury Agent George Denison who earlier accused US General Banks of “re-instituting Slavery” reported that the delegates to the Unionist Constitutional Convention in 1864, “were making fools of themselves” in reference to voting themselves salaries and budgets, but also reported, “Prejudice against the colored people is exhibited continually-prejudice bitter and vulgar” and the whole policy respecting the Colored People is ungenerous and unjust.” They did not even abolish slavery.

          Superintendent of the of the Freedmen’s Bureau Thomas W Conway in Louisiana reported to US General Hurlbut in charge of Civilian affairs (after being removed in Memphis for his mishandling of military affairs in Tennessee, particularly at Ft Pillow) that the Bureau that there had been 1500 “Plantations under cultivation under military orders” and 50K Freedmen on the Plantations “managed by the Bureau.” He further reported he, “found it necessary…in order secure payment of wages, to make seizures either of produce or other property” He seized over $22K.

          The Superintendent reported that the “Old Planters,…pd more promptly, more justly and apparently with more willingness, than the Lessees from other parts of the country.” Governor Hahn,who instituted laws that prohibited Blacks from Voting, was elected to the US Senate and was replaced by Lt Governor J. Madison Wells in March 65, who promptly earned the enmity of US General Banks (Massachusetts) by appointing Southerners to office, Banks complained bitterly to Washington, but US General E.S. Canby, now in full military command replaced Banks and sided with Wells, because the Scalawags caused him less problem than the Carpet Baggers.

          Hulburt issued orders Feb 4 1865 that “All Freedmen being care for by the Government, who were able to work, be forced to sign labor contracts” All Labor contracts were to be supervised by the Freedmen’s Bureau or his agents. The Lessees complained about the regulations and “Red Tape” taking up too much of their time “negotiating labor contracts” with Federal Agents” but “part of the delay was occasioned by the fact that the Negroes were dissatisfied with the payments of the last yr.” On April 14th 1865 Alexander Pugh wrote, “I have agreed with the Negros today to pay them monthly, It was very distasteful to me, but i could do no better.”

          Besides admitting to Orville Browning that the Blacks were not receiving the “desired benefit of Union occupation, ” Lincoln was terribly concerned with the state of affairs in Louisiana and wrote General Canby, “Frequent complaints are made to me that persons endeavoring to bring in cotton in strict accordance with the trade regulations of the Treasury Department, are frustrated by seizures of District Attorneys, Marshals, Provost-Marshals and others, on various pretenses, I wish, if you can find time, you would look into this matter within your Department, and finding these abuses to exist, break them up, if in your power, so that fair dealing under the regulations, can proceed.”

          General Canby and Superintendent Conway did an excellent job trying to be fair to all, but Canby was removed in 1866, and there was little Conway could do alone with the dozen or so teachers who remained. Northern economic considerations trumped Black suffrage in the South, Jim Crow was born in a Massachusetts Cotton Mill.

          “Reconstruction in Mississippi, 1865-1876”
          By Jason Phillips.
          This angry article is typical of the nonsense we read condemning the Ex-Confederates, but he slipped up and included this, without explaining it was AFTER the Unionist Government was enacted.

          “In 1865 deep prejudice appeared in Mississippi’s notorious Black Codes enacted in late November by the newly elected Mississippi Legislature. One of the first necessities of Reconstruction was to define the legal status of former slaves. Instead of embracing change Mississippi passed the first and most extreme Black Codes, laws meant to replicate slavery as much as possible. The codes used “vagrancy” laws to control the traffic of black people and punished them for any breach of Old South etiquette.”

          “Louisiana’s Black Heritage” we learn
          the American Missionary Society sent 20 teachers for the 50K Freedmen.Union General Banks promised to assist the 20 teachers, but reneged on his promises. The Gens de Couleur Libres provided the vast majority of what little education the Freedmen received.

    • SoFineSoFla

      July 23, 2019 at 11:21 pm

      Deluded Liberals want to hide their shameful pasts, whereas most republicans who are not nearly as reactionary and more reason based merely view statues as a point in our nations past where we once were. It is good to have reminders of how things used to be rather than trying to sweep everything under the rug and rewrite history to your liking.

  • Arnie

    July 22, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Thank you Mr. Sabatini for pointing out that we would be stupid to believe you.

  • Barbara Hill

    July 22, 2019 at 9:48 am

    The Historical Society is not a private museum Mr. Lawyer. It is a quasi governmental agency and is funded by Lake County, so they are just finding out they are subject to the Public Records and Sunshine Laws. Perhaps we should put a statue of General Sherman next to Kirby Smith. How would you deal with that? I could explain the civil war to you, but you wouldn’t get it anyway.

  • Frank Wood

    July 22, 2019 at 10:33 am

    At best, locating the statue in Tavares is an “ill-considered” idea for multiple reasons:

    • The statue is irrelevant to Lake’s history. Lake County was created in 1887 — 22 years after the Civil War.

    • Gen. Smith was born in St. Augustine and left Florida when he was 12. He is buried in Tennessee along with his family, and he never visited this area.

    • All other Florida communities and museums — including St. Augustine (Smith’s birthplace) — were offered the statue for free and have refused. They have some pretty good and obvious reasons. Lake County should take heed.

    • Proposing to house the Smith statue, memorialized in his confederate regalia, in the same building that served as headquarters for the infamous Sheriff Willis McCall, transcends insensitivity.

    • Finally, if Lake accepts this Jim-Crow-era artifact, it will make national news. We will look foolish and backward — and that is never good for business, for community cohesion and for Lake County’s civic reputation.

    • One must ask: “What’s the point … and is this statue worth the damage it causes to our community? What are the reasons some of Lake County’s conservatives are feverishly angling for this Jim-Crow-era relic that NO other Florida community wants?”

    • Karl burkhalter

      July 22, 2019 at 5:27 pm

      Your jiber jaber about White Supremacy and Jim Crow is utter nonsense and the result of a thorough Brainwashing. The North invaded for cotton and tariffs not to do Blacks any favors. Lincoln led Republicans controlled both houses of the 37th Congress. One of their select committees was the “Committee on Emancipation and Colonization.” The following resolution from that committee explains exactly what motivated Northern “anti-slavery.” Anti-slavery meant nothing more than “anti-black;” and to rid the country of an “inferior race” to prevent amalgamation. It was this kind of immoral racism that led to Southern secession in the first place. Is it any wonder that the MISSISSIPPI Declaration of Secession laments that the North “seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better.” If this is why the South was “pro-slavery,” in order to protect their black neighbors from Northern racism, what else are we not being told about the cause of secession and war?

      37th Congess.
      No. 148. REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON EMANCIPATION AND COLONIZATION,In the House of Resentatives, July 16, 1862:

      “It is useless, now, to enter upon any philosophical inquiry whether nature has or has not made the negro inferior to the Caucasian. The belief is indelibly fixed upon the public mind that such inequality does exist. There are irreconcilable differences between the two races which separate them,
      as with a wall of fire. The home for the African must not be within the limits of the present territory of the Union. The Anglo- American looks upon every acre of our present domain as intended for him, and not for the negro. A home, therefore, must be sought for the African beyond our own limits and in those warmer regions to which his constitution is better adapted than to our own climate,and which doubtless the Almighty intended the colored races should inhabit and cultivate.

      Much of the objection to emancipation arises from the opposition of a large portion of our people to the intermixture of the races, and from the association of white and black labor. The committee would do nothing to favor such a policy; apart from the antipathy which nature has ordained, the presence of a race among us who cannot, and ought not to be admitted to our social and political privileges, will be a perpetual source of injury and inquietude to both. This is a question of color, and is unaffected by the relation of master and slave.

      The introduction of the negro, whether bond or free, into the same field of labor with the white man, is the opprobrium of the latter… We wish to disabuse our laboring countrymen, and the whole Caucasian race who may seek a home here, of this error… The committee conclude that the highest interests of the white race, whether Anglo-Saxon, Celt, or Scandinavian, require that the whole country should be held and occupied by those races.”

      General Lee exclaimed:”The best men in the South have long desired to do away with the institution of slavery, and are quite willing to see it abolished. UNLESS SOME HUMANE COURSE, BASED ON WISDOM AND CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES IS ADOPTED, you do them great injustice in setting them free.”
      CSA Governor Henry W Allen Jan 1865

      “To the English philanthropist who professes to feel so much for the slave, I would say, come and see the sad and cruel workings the scheme.–Come and see the negro in the hands of his Yankee liberators. See the utter degradation–the ragged want–the squalid poverty. These false, pretended friends treat him with criminal neglect. William H. Wilder, He says the negroes have died like sheep with the rot. In the Parish of Iberville, out of six hundred and ten slaves, three hundred and ten have perished. Tiger Island, at Berwicks Bay, is one solid grave yard. At New Orleans, Thibodaux, Donaldsonville, Plaquemine, Baton Rouge, Port Hudson, Morganza, Vidalia, Young’s Point and Goodrich’s Landing, the acres of the silent dead will ever be the monuments of Yankee cruelty to these unhappy wretches. Under published orders from General Banks, The men on plantations were to be paid from six to eight dollars per month, In these orders the poor creatures after being promised this miserable pittance, were bound by every catch and saving clause that a lawyer could invent. For every disobedience their wages were docked. For every absence from labor they were again docked. In the hands of the grasping Yankee overseer, the oppressed slave has been forced to toil free of cost to his new master. I saw a half-starved slave who had escaped from one of the Yankee plantations, he said “that he had worked hard for the Yankees for six long months–that they had ‘dockered’ him all the time, and had never paid him one cent!” The negro has only changed masters, and very much for the worse! And now, without present reward or hope for the future, he is dying in misery and want. Look at this picture ye negro worshippers, and weep, if you have tears to shed over the poor down-trodden murdered children of Africa.”

  • Mae Hazelton

    July 22, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Dear Mr. Sabatini. We are not confused. We are not bored. This is not political theater. Have you forgotten the 2 articles published in August and October 2018 where it was clear you and Bob Grenier were looking for homes for these “displaced statues”? Or in one of the articles you said you two were writing a letter to the United Daughters of the Confederacy counting on them once again to be deeply involved in honoring and glorifying people who fought to maintain black people as slaves as they did in the 1920s (during Jim Crow) and the 1950s and 60s ( during the Civil Rights Movement).
    Those who support the statue argue that Confederate monuments are just innocent statues; that taking them down erases history. Those who support relocating the statue like to talk about Smith’s service in the Mexican-American War, his relationship with Alexander Darnes or his postwar career in mathematics and botany. Yet this is not what the statue depicts. Why doesn’t the statue of Kirby Smith show him surrendering at Galveston Texas, signing the terms of that surrender? Where is the marble depiction of Kirby Smith, the University of Nashville Chancellor, wearing civilian clothes, sitting behind a desk piled high with paperwork? Why is he immortalized in his war uniform? There is a reason why statues of Confederate generals are still powerful symbols. They are the ways in which a society tries to tell us what we should value. Mr. Sabatini would give anything to trivialize our opposition, to “aw shucks” us… to make people forget that Kirby Smith’s statue was erected for the explicit purpose of obscuring history; and that the immorality of slavery was always understood by the enslaved and their descendants. Mr. Sabatini knows this is about right and wrong. He’s not a goofball…he understands what it means to deflect…to sidetrack…to belittle…to marginalize.
    You see he understands the stakes of what he’s defending. He knows that Kirby Smith was honored not for being a West Point graduate, a chancellor or a botanist, but for defending a society built upon white supremacy—first by taking up arms, and then when the war was lost, by laying them down in such a way as to preserve what he could.
    By the way Mr. Sabatini, this really is my business as long as $18,800.00 in county taxpayer dollars are given to the museum it is a quasi-governmental organization and that gives me the right to ask about what goes on there. But of course you know this already…don’t you?

  • Nancy Hurlbert

    July 22, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Only place – IF we think it deserves a place! – is the FL Museum of History in Tallahassee…they have a permanent civil war exhibit…perfect for a person who has NO ties to Lake County, but does have a tie in St. Augustine (who didn’t want his statue!…Go figure!).

    (https://search.aol.com/aol/image;_ylt=A0geK.loci9dlJkAkgJpCWVH;_ylu=X3oDMTByMDgyYjJiBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMyBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?q=museum+of+fl+history%2C+civil+war+exhibit&v_t=loki-keyword)

  • Kathy Weaver

    July 22, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    White washing the history of the Civil War is another reason the statue of Gen. Kirby-Smith in full dress uniform should not be foisted on the citizens of Lake County.
    Delivered a few weeks before the Confederacy attacked Ft. Sumter, the act of treason that began the Civil War, this was the speech given at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia on March 21. 1861 by the V.P. ALexander H. Stephens of the Confederacy.
    Know as the Cornerstone Speech-
    The Cornerstone Speech is so called because Stephens used the word “cornerstone” to describe the “great truth” of white supremacy and black subordination upon which secession and confederation were based:

    “[I]ts foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

    Using biblical imagery, Stephens argued that divine laws consigned African Americans to slavery as the “substratum of our society” by saying:

    Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders “is become the chief of the corner”—the real “corner-stone”—in our new edifice.

    Confederate statues have now become the rallying cry of the Neo-Nazi, White Nationalists of today, Lake County Florida citizens deserve better than this. As the majority of our Mayors and City Municipalities in Lake County have made it clear they do not want this statue in our Lake County Museum. The Museum is not only taxpayer supported, it is housed in Lake County’s, Old Court House.

    • Karl burkhalter

      July 23, 2019 at 7:55 pm

      Kathy Weaver, Stephens may have tried to protect Slavery, but he also tried to protect Blacks from extermination at the hands of Unionist Contraband policy. He warned Lincoln at the Hampton Roads Peace Conference that unless Lincoln took action to feed the displaced Freedmen a great human tragedy would occur. Lincoln responded, “Root Hog or Die,” he meant die. One million Freedmen starved to death before 1870 while the Victors funded the Transatlantic Cable, the Union Pacific RR and the purchase of Alaska even as the GOP stole much of the contract money in the Credit Mobiler Scandal. Union General Nathaniel Banks Contraband policy to harvest cotton from siezed Plantations, became the Jim Crow Laws, that mirrored Illinois antebellum Black Codes, to facilitate the North’s #1 revenue source, textiles. Unionist Civilian Government instituted Segragation, before Confederates were allowed to vote.
      As far as the Civil Rights Movement goes. Dr King makes it clear in Chapter 28 of his Autobiography that Chicago was more racist than Alabama in the 1960s. In 1908 all the Blacks in Lincoln’s home town of Springfield Illinois were killed or removed on race riots. Hate Southerners all you want but Longstreet was shot from his horse leading the NOPD against White Supremacist mob at Liberty Place, Beauregard funded Plessey in his fight to SCOTUS. Mahone, Chalmers, Hindman, Hampton and other ex-CSA leaders brought the Blacks into Democratic Party by trying to protect them from Robber Baron Oligarchy exploitation. You biased nonsense is as devoid of validity as it is popular with Iconoclastic maniacs.

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories