Fake News: Nikki Haley Did Not Just Defend the Confederate Flag

Former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) said that the white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof "hijacked" what people thought of the Confederate battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia in his heinous manifesto. In an interview with Glenn Beck, she explained that many people in South Carolina saw the flag as a symbol of "service, sacrifice, and heritage." Media Matters published a clip of her interview, and liberals responded with predictable outrage.

"A reminder that Nikki Haley is just as despicable as every other Republican, and coverage of her should always reflect that," Patheos' Hemant Mehta tweeted.

CNN's W. Kamau Bell said Haley — the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under Trump — was not smarter than an 8th grader.

"Remember that brief period of time when Nikki Haley was considered the adult in the Trump Administration? Welp, she just failed 8th grade social studies with this take," he tweeted. "Unless there is another Dylan Roof who was a confederate general or a KKK grand wizard in 1915."

The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart tweeted out an op-ed he wrote in 2013 declaring that the "Confederate flag is no better than a Swastika."

State Senator Marlon Kimpson made it personal. He claimed that Haley "was a sideline Mon(day) morning cheerleader at best" when it came to the removal of the flag. Yet she called for its removal on June 22, 2015, while the State Senate did not vote to remove it until July 6, and the State House followed on July 9. Haley signed the bill that very day.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) — now a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate — accused Haley and others of having hijacked the Confederate flag.

"The symbol of the Confederacy was hijacked long ago. It was hijacked by people who tried to make it into something other than a symbol of slavery, white supremacy, and rebellion," Patrick tweeted.

Patrick went on to claim that Haley's ostensible effort "to try and perpetuate a different story today is irresponsible and ignores the message of hate and division intended by many and received by more, in South Carolina and beyond."

The video traces back to Media Matters researcher Jason Campbell. "Nikki Haley says the Confederate flag was about 'service, and sacrifice, and heritage' until Dylan Roof 'hijacked' it," he tweeted.

Yet in context, Haley was not defending the flag. Instead, she was defending the people of South Carolina.

She starts the clip by describing the victims of Dylann Roof's terrorism in 2015. "This is one of the oldest African-Americas churches. These twelve people were amazing people, they loved their church, they loved their family, they loved their community. And here is this guy that comes out with his manifesto holding the Confederate flag and had just hijacked everything that people thought of."

Haley continued, "We don’t have hateful people in South Carolina. There’s always the small minority that’s always going to be there. But you know people saw it as service, sacrifice, and heritage. But once he did that, there was no way to overcome it."

Then she recalled the media firestorm. "And the national media came in in droves, they wanted to define what happened. They wanted to make this about racism, they wanted to make it about gun control, they wanted to make it about the death penalty," she explained. Yet the people of South Carolina proved their worth. "We didn’t have riots, we had vigils. We didn’t have protests, we had hugs."

As liberals attacked her, Haley retweeted messages from conservatives who set the record straight.

"To be clear, she wasn't saying she viewed the flag that way, but arguing many South Carolinians viewed it that way. (she says 'people saw it as...') She used a similar equivocation in her announcement on removing the flag," The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein tweeted.

The Confederate flag is a sticky issue. While the South seceded in order to protect the expansion of slavery into federal territories, a revisionist version of history has painted the South as a heroic "lost cause," claiming secession was about state's rights and tariffs. Many southerners now see this Confederate flag, once championed by the KKK, as a symbol of their heritage.

Deval Patrick was right to say that those who celebrate the Confederate flag as a symbol of heritage are the ones "hijacking" its historic meaning. However, many Americans who celebrate this flag do not support slavery, white supremacy, or racism. Many see the flag as a historic symbol and an expression of southern pride. Haley was defending this perception, not the flag itself.

Haley called for the Confederate flag's removal from State House grounds early after the shooting. She signed the bill to remove the flag on the very day the State House passed it.

The suggestion that Nikki Haley supports the Confederate flag is false and shameful. Mehta, Bell, Capehart, Patrick, and especially Kimpson should apologize.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.