Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), a possible 2016 presidential candidate, said on Wednesday that Americans should rethink rushing to ban displays of the Confederate flag at state Capitols.
Webb, a former secretary of the Navy, defended the historic emblem’s use in a post on his Facebook account.
“The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades,” Webb said. “It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.”
“Honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War,” he added.
Webb was the first potential candidate to launch an exploratory committee for next year’s White House race, though he’d face a steep climb to a Democratic nomination. Front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE has strongly backed recent moves to remove the Confederate flag from positions of prominence.
Webb urged Americans to respect the bravery and heroism of individual Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War.
"It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery,” Webb said.
Controversy over displaying the Confederate flag reignited last week in the wake of a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C.
Dylann Storm Roof, the alleged gunman, is pictured with the flag on his car’s license plate.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) challenged Palmetto State lawmakers on Monday to vote on removing the Confederate flag located on the Statehouse's grounds in Columbia.
Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerPentagon, State Department square off on Afghanistan accountability White House scrambles to avert supply chain crisis We cannot miss this big moment for national service MORE (R-Miss.) called on his state’s lawmakers on Wednesday to change Mississippi’s flag to cut its Confederate imagery. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was more forceful, unceremoniously removing the divisive symbol from his state’s Capitol in Montgomery Wednesday morning.
Webb argued that the U.S. should preserve every part of its history, even the uncomfortable ones.
“This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect,” he said.