Nebraska Lawmaker Calls American Flag ‘a Rag,’ Compares It to Swastika

American Flag, Nebraska State Sen. Ernie Chambers - collage.
David J. Phillip, Nati Harnik/AP Photo
KATHERINE RODRIGUEZ

Nebraska State Sen. Ernie Chambers (I-Omaha) referred to the American flag as “a rag” and compared it to a swastika during a Tuesday speech on the floor of the state legislative chamber.

Chambers made the comments during a floor speech where he was criticizing a bill, LB 399, which would update civics requirements in the state’s schools to improve student literacy “in civics, history, economics, financial literacy, and geography.”

“I don’t come here for this rag every day, and it’s a rag. That’s all it is to me,” Chambers said, referring to the American flag. “When you show a way to persuade Jews to sanctify and worship the swastika, when you show me that I’ll come up here and stand while you all hypocritically pretend that rag is something that it definitely is not.”

Several lawmakers then criticized the 81-year-old state senator for his comments.

Chambers’ colleague, State Sen. Tom Brewer, who is also a military veteran, responded that “it’s hard” to refer to the American flag “as a rag” given how those who serve our country sacrifice a lot to respect the flag.

“I think I speak for most of us that have worn the uniform, it rips our heart out to hear someone say that they refer to the flag as a rag,” Brewer said. “Because for those of us that have brought home those that we’ve lost, it’s hard to ever refer to the flag as a rag because you have to fold it and you have to get it to the parents, and that’s awful hard to do.”

State Sen. Julie Slama, who sponsored the civics bill, also called Chambers out for “degrading” a revered symbol representing those who “sacrifice for our nation.”

“Sen. Chambers’ comments not only degrade a symbol of ultimate sacrifice for our nation, but they also minimize the horrors and millions of lives lost in the Holocaust,” Slama said.

Chambers, who has represented parts of Omaha since 1971 and is the longest-serving state lawmaker, has a history of making inflammatory comments during his time in the Nebraska legislature.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that, in a 2015 legislative hearing on concealed carry, Chambers put members of law enforcement on the same level as members of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.

“My ISIS is the police. Nobody from ISIS ever terrorized us as a people as the police do us daily. And they get away with it,” Chambers said at the time.

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