Graham: Confederate flag debate ‘needs to happen’
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Graham’s remarks followed an emotional vigil that evening in Charleston, S.C., for nine people killed in a mass shooting at a church there earlier this week.
He reversed course following the ceremony, after arguing earlier Friday he would support the symbol remaining at full-mast outside the state capitol building in Columbia, S.C.
“I think it’s a debate that needs to happen,” Graham said of the flag’s future status, according to Fusion.
“We’ll take it up in January,” he added of South Carolina lawmakers. “We’ll see what they want to do.”
Graham, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, was attending a vigil for victims killed on Wednesday evening at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
He initially argued Friday that South Carolina lawmakers should not hastily lower the Confederate flag amid reports that Dylann Storm Roof, the alleged shooter, had it on his car’s license plate.
“At the end of the day it’s time for people in South Carolina to revisit that decision,” said Friday morning of whether the flag should continue flying at the Statehouse.
“[That] would be fine with me, but this is part of who we are,” he said.
“That flag represents to some people a civil war, and that was the symbol of one side,” Graham added. “To others, it’s a racist symbol, and it’s been used by people, it’s been used in a racist way.”
The White House on Friday said President Obama believes the historic emblem “belongs in a museum.”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) admitted Thursday that she could not raise or lower the flag without approval from her state’s legislature.
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), a former governor in the Palmetto State, argued that talking about removing the symbol is like “opening Pandora’s box.”
Roof had a $1 million bond levied against him during a court appearance on Friday in Charleston.
The emotional hearing featured relatives of the shootings’ victims forgiving the alleged killer for his actions.
Roof was arrested Thursday in Shelby, N.C. following a 14-hour manhunt for his whereabouts.
He allegedly uttered racial epithets before attacking congregants at Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday evening.
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a South Carolina senator, were among those killed in the incident.