GOP gubernatorial nominee Daniel Cameron shakes hands with supporters during his election party on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Galt House in Louisville. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Austin Anthony.)
Editor’s note: This story was updated Friday morning with a statement from Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Kentucky’s Daniel Cameron on Thursday joined a coalition of Republican attorneys general in warning the country’s top executives of “serious legal consequences” if their companies advance “diversity, equity, and inclusion” by discriminating on the basis of race.
A letter — addressed “Dear Fortune 100 CEOs” and signed by Cameron and 12 other state attorneys general — cautions that, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of affirmative action in higher education, companies also should “comply with these race-neutral principles in your employment and contracting practices.”
Also Thursday, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, without naming names, upped the pressure on Cameron, his Republican challenger, to distance himself from a controversial supporter accused by Beshear of having made “numerous blatantly racist and homophobic comments.”
Cameron has come under similar pressure from fellow Republicans, most prominently U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, for having agreed to appear at suspended attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Eric Deters’ annual Freedom Fest. The conservative outdoor gathering in Northern Kentucky was headlined in recent years by sons of Donald Trump. The former president endorsed Cameron early on in a race that could make him Kentucky’s first Black governor.
After Massie criticized Cameron’s decision to appear at Deters’ event, as first reported by the Louisville Courier Journal, Cameron’s campaign told the Lexington Herald-Leader this week that he would no longer attend Freedom Fest due to a conflicting event.
Deters, who finished a distant fourth in the May Republican gubernatorial primary, has said he will probably challenge Massie’s reelection next year.
‘A pretty easy call for anyone in public service’
A frequent and bombastic presence on social media, Deters sometimes peppers his right-wing rants with racial slurs. He has said, “Blacks want to control everything.”
Massie told the Herald-Leader: “This plays into a trope about Republicans and I’m disgusted and discouraged that Republicans in Kentucky are going to show up to this event.”
Beshear during his Thursday news conference called on other elected officials to condemn “horrific” remarks without naming Deters, although it was clear to reporters who Beshear had in mind. “The way we root out hate and end it is to make sure that we call it out when it’s there, no matter who is saying it, that we give it no space and no oxygen, and every single individual out there in a leadership position fully condemns it,” Beshear said. “That’s the very least we should do. That’s what leadership requires.”
In response to a reporter’s follow-up question, Beshear said he was “very troubled” that a one-time gubernatorial candidate made such remarks and added “people shouldn’t associate with a person that does that and people shouldn’t go to their events.”
“When someone is showing you that they’re racist, you ought to condemn it, and you ought to not participate in events with them. You ought to not acknowledge them,” Beshear said. “You want to condemn them, and that ought to be a pretty easy call for anyone in public service.”
Asked for a response to Beshear’s criticism, the Cameron campaign said in a statement: “Neither Andy Beshear nor the Democrat Party came to Daniel Cameron’s defense when a liberal cartoonist depicted him as a member of the KKK. It’s pretty audacious for Andy Beshear to suddenly find his voice when he’s been silent about the vitriol Daniel Cameron has faced for years.”
In a Thursday afternoon video on his Facebook page, Deters denied being homophobic or racist. He said Massie and Beshear “are on the same page” and reiterated his support for Cameron.
Immoral and illegal
“Hiring practices that favor one racial group over another are immoral and illegal,” Cameron said in a press release. “I joined this coalition to ensure that systemic racial discrimination—like in corporate hiring—is a thing of the past.”
(Cameron and other Republican attorneys general have also recently sent a letter to the CEO of the Target Corporation criticizing what a press release called the retail chain’s “extreme, anti-child ‘LGBTQIA+ Pride’ campaign.” The Associated Press previously reported that a Target swimsuit campaign featuring “tuck-friendly” apparel was for adults and not children.)
The latest letter accuses Airbnb, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Snapchat, TikTok and other companies of employing race-based hiring and promotion practices and racial quotas.
“Such overt and pervasive racial discrimination in the employment and contracting practices of Fortune 100 companies compels us to remind you of the obvious: Racial discrimination is both immoral and illegal,” the attorneys general wrote.
Fortune magazine designates the top 100 U.S. companies based on annual revenue reported to a government agency.
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