Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley engaged in “false, pandering BS” when she claimed the Confederate flag only became a symbol of hate in South Carolina after the 2015 Charleston church massacre, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a Saturday afternoon Twitter salvo.
In an interview on the Glenn Beck Podcast, Haley claimed “people saw (the Confederate flag) as service and sacrifice and heritage,” but that after a white supremacist killed 9 black churchgoers in Charleston, “there was no way to overcome it.” As South Carolina governor at the time, Haley signed a law taking down the Confederate flag that then flew on South Carolina’s capitol grounds.
Landrieu, who took on New Orleans’ own “Confederate heritage” by removing monuments to the so-called “Lost Cause” in 2017, criticized Haley on Saturday for backing down on her once clear stance against Confederate imagery.
“Well bless your heart Nikki. I know you understand what you’re doing,” Landrieu tweeted. “The confederate flag is meant to honor and revere the Confederacy whose mission was to destroy the United States in order to preserve slavery. It’s that simple. Anything else is false, pandering BS. #lostcause.”
Sure enough, in his 1861 speech announcing the Confederate constitution, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens declared: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea (from ‘All men are created equal’); its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
As Haley admitted in 2015, the Confederate flag has long been a symbol around which hate groups and segregationists have rallied. South Carolina first raised the Confederate flag in 1961 both as a show of defiance against federal public school desegregation orders and to commemorate 100 years since the creation of the Confederacy and the announcement of the Confederate States Constitution.
‘The Confederacy Was on the Wrong Side of History and Humanity’
Two years after Haley signed the law removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds, she accepted a position as Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations. That same year, Landrieu delivered a historic speech on New Orleans’ decision to remove the city’s Confederate statues.
“The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered,” Landrieu said in May 2017. “As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history.
In her interview with Glenn Beck this week, though, Haley spoke as if she could not understand why the national media “wanted to make” the Charleston massacre and the decision to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds “about racism.”
“The national media came in droves. They wanted to define what happened. They wanted to make this about racism,” Haley said.
The man who committed the Charleston massacre, though, was quite clear that racism was his motivation. In a letter, he wrote that the uproar over Trayvon Martin’s killing helped “awaken” him and that he supported George Zimmerman’s 2012 slaying of the unarmed 17-year-old black teen. In the letter, the Charleston killer wrote that he hoped to start “a race war.”
On Friday, CNN reporter Abby D. Phillip tweeted her confusion over Haley’s about-face on the Confederate flag.
“When I talked to Haley in 2015, she was fully aware that many people in SC associated the flag with hate long before (the Charleston massacre),” Phillip wrote. “She even told me that her son had raised the issue to her before. So I don’t understand why she wouldn’t even bother to mention that in this interview.”
The Charleston massacre happened just one day after Donald J. Trump kicked off his 2016 campaign for the Republican nomination for president with a racist rant of his own directed at “Mexicans.”
Haley Defended Trump’s Child Concentration Camps
Some political observers suspect Haley’s attempt to dial back her comments on the Confederate flag may have something to do with the fact that she is considering a 2024 presidential bid of her own in a post-Trump Republican Party—one where open racism is more widely accepted than it was four years ago.
Trump has locked thousands of brown-skinned refugee children up in dog-kennel-like conditions inside makeshift concentration camps. He has done so with little pushback from his party, despite the deaths of multiple children in U.S. custody. Haley continued serving as Trump’s U.N. ambassador for five months after that policy began in mid-2018, resigning in October of that year. She has not spoken out against the administration’s actions.
After news first broke of the Trump administration’s separating of immigrant families and caging of children in June 2018, Ravina Shamdasani, a U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights spokeswoman, criticized the policy for running “counter to human rights standards and principles.”
Haley lashed back at the time, defending the monstrous policy by accusing the U.N. of “hypocrisy.”
“Once again, the United Nations shows its hypocrisy by calling out the United States while it ignores the reprehensible human rights records of several members of its own Human Rights Council,” Haley said.