Trump on Confederate flag: ‘It’s freedom of speech’
President Trump on Tuesday described displaying the Confederate flag as “freedom of speech” while saying it was “up to” NASCAR to make the decision on whether to allow the symbol at races.
The comments came a day after he chastised the racing circuit on Twitter for banning the flag from its properties and targeted Bubba Wallace, one of the sport’s top Black stars.
“My stance is very simple: It’s freedom of speech,” Trump said in an interview with a Nexstar television reporter at the White House when asked his personal stance on the flag in society.
“You do what you do. It’s freedom of speech,” the president continued. “NASCAR can do whatever they want, and they’ve chosen to go a certain way, other people choose to go a different route.”
Trump added that he didn’t think his tweets taking a stronger stance against NASCAR’s decision were “critical” of the organization.
“I was just talking about the fact that NASCAR chose to go a certain way and that’s going to be up to them. That is up to them,” he said, adding that he’s friendly with representatives and drivers from the racing league. “But I view it as freedom of speech.”
Trump previously suggested while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015 that the Confederate flag should be formally retired, saying at the time that the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina Statehouse should be put in “a museum.”
His latest remarks come as he continues to speak out over what he’s called a “left-wing cultural revolution” that aims to tear down statues and monuments commemorating U.S. heritage.
Trump used speeches over the Fourth of July weekend to tout the country’s monuments and denounce protesters who have toppled some of the statues. The president has also threatened to veto a defense policy bill over the inclusion of an amendment calling for military bases named after Confederate leaders to change their names.
The positioning has come amid a renewed push for the removal of symbols of the Confederacy in wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
On Monday, Trump targeted NASCAR in a tweet while accusing Wallace, the racing circuit’s only full-time Black driver, of carrying out a “hoax” involving a noose found in his garage stall.
“Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX?” Trump tweeted. “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
Officials from NASCAR reported in late June that a noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall at an Alabama raceway. Days later, federal authorities determined that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime and that the noose had been there since at least October. The circuit later released a photo of the noose, which authorities said was used as a garage-door pull.
NASCAR has defended how it handled the matter, with President Steve Phelps emphasizing the “noose was real.”
The president’s tweet targeting NASCAR came after it announced June 10 that it would no longer allow Confederate flags on its properties or at its events, saying that its presence “runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment.”
The circuit made the decision as protests swept across the nation following the police killing of Floyd and after Wallace pushed the racing league to take the step.
Following the president’s tweet on Monday, Wallace responded with a note intended for “the next generation.”
“Love over hate every day,” Wallace said. “Love should come naturally to as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s hate from the POTUS.. Love wins.”
Several people within NASCAR also voiced support for Wallace following the president’s attacks.