Following the murder of nine people in an apparent hate crime in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, many Americans, including prominent political figures, are calling for South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the North side of the state’s capital building. Gov. Nikki Haley, who defended the flag during her campaign for reelection last year and supported its placement because business leaders had not complained to her about its posting, said today that “the state will start talking about” the flag issue again following the shooting.
The following Republican presidential hopefuls have voiced their support for the Confederate flag to remain on government buildings and public property.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came to the defense of the South Carolina Confederate flag display yesterday, describing it as an integral “part of who we are”
While Graham did admit to CNN that the flag has been “used in a racist way” in the past, he argued that “the problems we have in south Carolina and the world are not because of a movie or a symbol, it’s about what’s in people’s heart.”
He added that South Carolina’s “compromise” of having both a Confederate War memorial and an African American memorial at the state capitol “works.”
Hoping to mobilize white evangelical voters against Republican “establishment” candidates in 2008, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee demanded his fellow candidates stop asking for the removal of the Confederate flag from government offices.
Huckabee had this to say: “You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag…if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole. That’s what we’d do.”
During his last presidential campaign, Rick Perry came under scrutiny for his efforts to oppose the removal of the Confederate flag from display at the statehouse when he was lieutenant governor of Texas. In a March, 2000 letter to the Sons of Confederate Veterans obtained by the Associated Press, Perry wrote, “Although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques and memorials from public property.”
However, Perry seems to have begun to rethink his stance on Confederate symbols. In 2011, he opposed an effort to create Confederate flag license plates, and in an interview on Newsmax’s The Steve Malzberg Show this week Perry voiced his agreement with critics of the flag that “we need to be looking at these issues as ways to bring the country together. And if these are issues that are pushing us apart, then maybe there’s a good conversation that needs to be had about [it].”