Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is praising South Carolinians for convincing him to call for the removal of a Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol after a shooting at a historic black church.

"The people of Charleston, the people of Mother Emanuel Church, the way they conducted themselves made it impossible to keep the flag up," he said Tuesday on CNN's "At This Hour," noting that the "people led the politicians."


Graham praised the families of the nine victims and noted how a handful confronted the alleged killer during his bail hearing and gave him their forgiveness.

Calls to remove the flag swelled in the days following the shooting as pictures showed the suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, posing with the flag that's used as a symbol for the Civil War-era South.

"The killer embraced the flag in a way that there was no way to explain," Graham said on CNN.

The 2016 GOP presidential candidate initially defended the flag, arguing that it "works here." But on Monday, he joined Gov. Nikki Haley (R) in her call to remove the flag.

"If it hadn't been for this horrific killing, that flag would still by flying, but after this, none of us can look the people at the AME church in the eye and say let's keep the flag up, at least I can't," Graham said.

Haley has promised to call a special session if lawmakers don't take a vote on removing the flag. The Post and Courier in Charleston is keeping a running vote count of the Statehouse's views on the issue. While those in favor of removing the flag outweigh those who don't, support as of Tuesday at noon hasn't reached a majority or the two-thirds threshold likely needed to remove the flag.


"God help South Carolina if we don't achieve the goal of removing the flag," Graham said.

"To anybody thinking about voting no, here's what it means: It means we will be boycotted, it means our state will suffer economically, it means that the children — black, white and everything in between — in South Carolina are going to be haunted by this.”

Some Republican candidates faced criticism for not directly addressing the issue and arguing that it was an issue of states' rights. Graham thanked his fellow GOP presidential hopefuls for staying out of the issue and allowing the state to sort it out on its own.

"Some people may not like it, but it was appreciated in South Carolina to give us a chance to come together," he said.

"If we had ignored it, I would imagine that everybody would have to answer this question."

Graham balked when asked if taking down the flag is enough or if all Confederate memorials should be taken down. He said that he supports the call in Mississippi to change its flag, which includes the Confederate symbol on its top left corner, but wouldn't comment on other situations.

"I've got my hands full taking down our Confederate flag and moving it to a museum. I can't fix every problem in the world, in the state, in the nation."