Nikki Haley defends comments about the Confederate flag

Image: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Copyright John Lamparski Getty Images file
Copyright John Lamparski Getty Images file
By Dareh Gregorian with NBC News Politics
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As governor of South Carolina, Haley had signed a measure removing the flag from flying over the Capitol.


Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley on Friday defended an interview in which she said people in South Carolina equated the Confederate flag with "service and sacrifice and heritage" before the Charleston church shooter "hijacked" it.

Haley made the comments afterBlaze TV's Glenn Beck asked her how she was able to rally South Carolinians into bringing down the Confederate flag from the state Capitol when she was the state's governor.

Haley, who at one point was opposed to removing the flag, signed the measure into law on July 9, 2015, less than a month after a white supremacist killed a dozen people in a black church.

"You had what was just horrible. Twelve people who went and did what so many South Carolinians do every Wednesday night — they went to Bible study. But on this night someone else showed up and he didn't look like them, he didn't act like them and he didn't sound like them. And they didn't throw him out. They didn't call the cops. They pulled up a chair and they prayed with him for an hour. And when they bowed their heads in that last prayer, he began to shoot," Haley recounted.

"South Carolina fell to her knees when this happened. This is one of the oldest African-American churches. These 12 people were amazing people, they love their church, they love their family, they love their community."

The killer,Dylann Roof, "comes out with this manifesto, holding the Confederate flag, and had just hijacked everything that people thought of," she continued. "We don't have hateful people in South Carolina. There's always the small minority that's always gonna be there, but, you know, people saw it as service, and sacrifice, and heritage, but once he did that there was no way to overcome it."

Haley was widely mocked for the comments on social media. Historian Kevin Levin called her claims about the flag "nonsense." "Tell that to the white men who in 1920 force a young African American man to kiss a Confederate flag before they lynched him," he tweeted.

Comedian W. Kamau Bell tweeted, "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."

Haley latertook to Twitter herself, linking to a New York Times transcript of her 2015 call to have the flag taken down.

In those remarks, she said Roof had "a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect and, in many ways, revere it. Those South Carolinians view the flag as a symbol of respect, integrity and duty. They also see it as a memorial, a way to honor ancestors who came to the service of their state during time of conflict. That is not hate, nor is it racism."

While not explicitly mentioning slavery, Haley added "At the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past."

In a message linking to the article, Haley said, "2015 was a painful time for our state.The pain was and is still real. Below was my call for the removal of the Confederate flag & I stand by it. I continue to be proud of the people of SC and how we turned the hate of a killer into the love for each other."

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