When it comes to dealing with the Confederate flag, Jeb Bush isn’t leaving much room for interpretation in his stance on the issue.
The former governor recalled Saturday how he ordered the removal of the flag from Florida state grounds in 2001, adding that he believes South Carolina will do “the right thing” as the state decides what to do about the controversial symbol that flies at the capitol in Columbia.
His comments come as 2016 presidential candidates face questions over how to handle the racially sensitive debate that follows the massacre of nine African-American parishioners by a white gunman in a Charleston church this week.
“My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear,” he said in a written statement. “In Florida we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged. This is obviously a very sensitive time in South Carolina and our prayers are with the families, the AME church community and the entire state. Following a period of mourning there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward, and I’m confident they will do the right thing.”
The Huffington Post on Friday cited a 2001 article from the St. Petersburg Times, which reported that Bush and then Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris had the flag quietly removed after it had flown outside the state capitol’s west entrance in Tallahassee since 1978.
“Regardless of our views about the symbolism of the .. flags – and people of goodwill can disagree on the subject – the governor believes that most Floridians would agree that the symbols of Florida’s past should not be displayed in a manner that may divide Floridians today,” Bush spokeswoman Katie Baur said in a statement at the time.
His comments on Saturday came hours after 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney decisively called for South Carolina to remove the flag.
“I understand the passions that this debate evokes on both sides,” he said. “Both those who see a history of racial oppression and a history of slavery, which is the original sin of our nation, and we fought a bloody civil war to expunge that sin.
“But I also understand those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states, not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions, and I think often this issue is used as a wedge to try to divide people,” he added.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, meanwhile, defended the flag in an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota earlier this week.
“This is part of who we are,” he said.