Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe trouble with Rex Tillerson A Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair Pentagon should have a civilian chief to give peace a chance MORE, a Republican presidential candidate, on Friday said the Confederate flag is part of the heritage of his home state of South Carolina, rebuffing calls for it to be taken down after a mass shooting in the state.
"Well, at the end of the day it's time for people in South Carolina to revisit that decision. [That] would be fine with me, but this is part of who we are," Graham said on CNN when asked if the flag should stop flying at the Statehouse.
A shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday night that left nine people dead has sparked renewed debate over whether the Confederate flag should continue to fly in the state.
Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white man, has been arrested as the suspect in the shooting. Photos of Roof that emerged online showed him wearing a jacket with flags of apartheid-era South Africa and colonial Rhodesia, symbols often associated with white supremacists.
While the U.S. and Palmetto State flag were lowered Thursday following the shooting, a Confederate flag in view of the Statehouse remained at the top of its staff, provoking criticism.
“In South Carolina, the governor does not have legal authority to alter the flag,” a spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told ABC News on Thursday. “Only the General Assembly can do that.”
An agreement by state lawmakers in 2000 removed the Confederate flag from flying over the Statehouse in Columbia, transferring it to a nearby Civil War memorial.
"That's opening up Pandora's box," Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), a former governor in the state, said Friday during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if the Confederate lag should be retired.
"With any political compromise, you do not have perfection. Both sides end up a little bit unhappy," Sanford added.
Graham, who canceled campaign events to return to South Carolina following the shooting, suggested that racial issues in his state and other areas are not the result of symbolic items "but what's in people's heart."
In the interview on CNN, Graham called for a "balanced" approach to the issue of the flag, noting that near the Civil War memorial honoring fallen Confederate soldiers is another one honoring African-Americans.
"It works here, that's what the Statehouse agreed to do. You could probably visit other places in the country near some symbol that doesn't quite strike you right."