GOP Rep: Confederate Flag Isn’t Racist Symbol, Just “Misused”

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July 9, 2015 3:36 p.m.

GOP House leaders are scrambling to quell the backlash to a failed attempt to reverse limits on Confederate flags in national parks. But at least one Republican is willing to defend the efforts to protect the Confederate flag.

“I don’t think it’s a racist symbol, I think people have misused it,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) told reporters Thursday. “I haven’t given it much thought because it’s something in the South you kind of grow up being around, just seeing it at different venues or whatever. But I have never thought of it as a racist flag.”

Late Wednesday night, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) introduced an amendment which would have reversed a previously passed amendment to an Interior appropriations bill banning the flag in federal cemeteries. The Calvert amendment, as well as the underlying bill, was scheduled for a vote Thursday until the GOP leadership pulled entire legislation package from the floor to sort out the Confederate flag issue.

Westmoreland said he would have voted for the Calvert amendment, and defended the use of Confederate flags in federal cemeteries.

“When you’re putting it on somebody’s grave, to me it’s a little different than being racist, its more of a memorial is what it is,” Westmorland said. “You can’t make an excuse for the things that happened. But a majority of people that actually died in the Civil War on the Confederate side did not own slaves. These were people who were fighting for their states. I don’t think they even had thoughts about slavery.”

He noted that some states have Confederate memorial holidays which some people celebrate by bringing Confederate flags to cemeteries.

“If somebody wants to go honor their descendent with a flag on a Confederate memorial day, I don’t see that being a problem,” Westmoreland said.

Westmoreland also responded to the criticisms made by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) that the flag was a racist symbol.

“The question is does he understand where I’m coming from?” Westmoreland said, when a reporter asked if he understood where Lewis was coming from. “If I believe it comes from heritage, does he understand why, where I’m coming from?”

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