By Jordan Fabian - 06/19/15 04:03 PM EDT
President Obama believes the Confederate flag “belongs in a museum,” the White House said Friday amid calls for it to be taken down, following a mass shooting in South Carolina.
“The president has said before he believes the Confederate flag belongs in a museum, and that is still his position,” spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The suspected shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, reportedly drove a car with Confederate flag license plates.
And while the U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered to half-staff following the shooting, the Confederate flag that flies near the state capitol flew at full height, a move that drew criticism.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s office said Thursday she could not lower the flag without approval from the state legislature. The GOP governor has dismissed calls to remove it in the past.
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), the Palmetto State’s former governor, said talking about removing the flag is like “opening Pandora’s Box.”
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump on primary rivals who don't back him: 'I don't know how they live with themselves' The Trail 2016: Who is really winning? Graham: GOP Senate could rein in Clinton White House MORE (R), a 2016 presidential candidate, called the Confederate banner “part of who we are” as South Carolinians.
NAACP President Cornell Brooks said Friday the flag must come down. He criticized those who say it’s simply a symbol of the state’s history, calling it an “emblem of hate.”
“When we see that symbol lifted up as an emblem of hate, as a tool of hate, as an inspiration for hate, as an inspiration for violence, that symbol has to come down,” he said Friday in Charleston.
Obama first called for the Confederate flag to be retired to a museum in 2007 during his campaign for president, months before the South Carolina primary.