Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said in an interview released this week that the man who killed black parishoners at a church in her state “hijacked” the meaning of the Confederate battle flag for people who felt it meant “sacrifice and heritage.”
Haley, in an interview with conservative radio host Glenn Beck, revisited the conversation around her decision in 2015 to remove the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Haley was widely praised for removing the flag.
Haley, who also served as ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration, was asked about the flag by Beck, who noted that “South Carolinians supported (her) movement to take the flag off of the flagpoles and lower that and get it out.”
“How do you do that?” he asks the former governor in the interview, which was released Thursday.
“This was one of the oldest African American churches – these 12 people were amazing people, they loved their church, they loved their family, they loved their community,” Haley replied, referring to nine people who Dylann Roof killed in June 2015. “And here is this guy that comes out with this manifesto, holding the Confederate flag and had just hijacked everything that people thought of (about the flag).”
“But you know people saw it as service, and sacrifice and heritage – but once he did that, there was no way to overcome it.”
The Confederate battle flag has a long history of representing racist causes. Haley faced some opposition for her decision from people who argued the flag instead meant Southern pride.
Haley’s new comments come four years after she ordered the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds, saying at the time that “the more important part is it should have never been there” and that “people were driving by (the statehouse) and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain.” Roof, who was sentenced to death in 2017 for the murders, was repeatedly photographed with the Confederate Flag.
The former governor had previously been a supporter of the flag – which was placed at the statehouse in 2000 – as a symbol of Southern heritage honoring residents’ ancestors. But after the funerals of the nine victims of the massacre, she said she decided that the flag had to come down.
Haley, a Republican, also said in 2015 that the flag should be in a museum, a place that preserves history, not in a place where people gather to implement policies about the state’s future.
“There is a place for that flag,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon. “It’s not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina.”
CNN’s Elizabeth Hartfield and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.