Several Republican presidential candidates weighed in on the debate over whether or not South Carolina should remove the confederate flag from its state capitol, following the racially motivated shooting in Charleston last week.
The candidates overwhelmingly expressed the view that the flag was divisive, but ultimately most said it should be up to the people of the state on whether or not to remove the confederate flag – not the federal government.
GOP presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said South Carolina isn’t a racist state. “This is an issue for South Carolina and I respect what they do. I don’t personally display the confederate battle flag anywhere, and have no intention of doing it,” Huckabee explained to reporters.
He referenced his appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd where he said the issue of the confederate flag has implicated that South Carolina is a racist state.
“This is a state where mostly white people elected a female governor of Indian decent. They’ve elected the first ever African American United States Senator…they’re more diverse in their state wide office holders than New York, Massachusetts or Connecticut,” Huckabee argued. “There was one racist lunatic out of a population of 4.8 million people … to suggest that the whole state is teaming with racism, flies in the face of what I have come to know about the people of South Carolina in my many many visits there.”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced she wants the Confederate flag removed from the state capitol on Monday, adding she is calling for the state legislators to address this issue prior to leaving for recess.
“One hundred fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come,” Haley said. “That flag, while an integral part of the past, does not represent the future of our great state.”
GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was on hand to support Haley’s announcement.
RealClearPolitics reported former Texas Gov. Rick Perry – another GOP presidential candidate – said the flag “clearly…divides people.”
Like Huckabee, GOP presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Carly Fiorina and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said it is up to the state whether or not to remove the confederate flag – not the federal government.
Fellow GOP presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina had called the confederate flag “offensive to many,” according to the National Journal.
“I think it’s clearly a symbol that is very offensive to many, but my personal opinion is not what’s relevant here,” Fiorina said, adding it is up to the people of South Carolina.
GOP presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush removed the confederate flag from the capitol in Florida to a museum in 2001.
“The issue is not the flag so much as it is how people think,” said the only African American GOP presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, to the Wall Street Journal. “What’s in their heart? You can get rid of every Confederate flag in the world but if you’re still being motivated by the wrong emotion it’s not going to solve any problem.”