At an event in South Carolina yesterday, Newt Gingrich was asked by a town hall participant to offer his views regarding the state’s decision to fly the Confederate flag at the statehouse in Columbia. The woman’s question was met with a smattering of boos from the audience.
“I have a very strong opinion,” Gingrich said, prefacing his weak response. “It’s up to the people of South Carolina.” (He then qualified his answer by assuring that he is opposed to segregation and slavery.)
Gingrich elicited a rousing standing ovation and yells of approval from the audience. Watch it:
On the one hand, while Gingrich was giving cover to our nation’s racist history with his answer on the Confederate flag, he was also employing racism as a political tool. Politico reports Gingrich told reporters later that “the left” often uses “racism as an excuse for thought.”
During his 2008 run, Mitt Romney took a far bolder stance than Gingrich, saying “that flag shouldn’t be flown” and “that’s not a flag I recognize.” Romney was attacked by right-wing activists for his stand. It’s unclear how he will deal with the issue this coming year.
NAACP President Ben Jealous has been challenging South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) to take the flag down. “Perhaps one of the most perplexing examples of the contradictions of this moment in history is that Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s first governor of color, continues to fly the Confederate flag in front of her state’s capitol,” Jealous said last July. “Given the similarities between our struggles to end slavery and segregation, and her ancestors’ struggle to end British colonialism and oppression in India, my question to Governor Haley is one that Dr. King often asked himself: ‘What would Gandhi do?’”