President Donald Trump said some people view the Confederate flag with pride after he was asked if the banner is an offensive symbol in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
Trump said it depends on “who you’re talking about” when considering whether the flag is offensive.
“When people proudly have their Confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the South, they like the South. People right now like the South. I’d say it’s freedom of many things, but it’s freedom of speech,” Trump said.
Asked if he was offended by the Confederate flag, the president added: “Well, I’m not offended either by Black Lives Matter. That’s freedom of speech.”
“You know, the whole thing with cancel culture, we can’t cancel our whole history. We can’t forget that the north and the south fought. We have to remember that, otherwise we’ll end up fighting again,” he asserted.
Eleven southern states banded together in a Confederacy in the 1800s, seceding from the United States. A civil war that consumed the young country for four years began in 1861.
The Union, or the northern states, won in the end and the southern states later rejoined the United States.
Some people have continued to fly the Confederate flag at their homes or other places.
A number of organizations and agencies in recent weeks announced their banning of the flag. NASCAR banned it last month while the U.S. military prohibited it being flown on its bases last week.
Trump criticized NASCAR for the move and has opposed the taking down of Confederate statues. He won many southern states in the 2016 election.
In 2017, after clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, over a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Trump correctly predicted that the push to take down monuments wouldn’t stop with Confederates.
“This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Trump told reporters at the time.
Statues of Washington and other Founding Fathers have been toppled by vandals in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Trump, in the interview broadcast Sunday, also said he might veto the defense spending bill Congress is currently working on if it ultimately includes a provision requiring the renaming of bases named after Confederates.
“I might,” the president said, adding: “Yeah, I might.”
He turned his attention to Fort Bragg, one of the 10 bases in question, which sits in North Carolina.
“Fort Bragg is a big deal. We won two World Wars, nobody even knows General Bragg. We won two World Wars. Go to that community where Fort Bragg is, in a great state, I love that state, go to the community, say how do you like the idea of renaming Fort Bragg, and then what are we going to name it?” Trump wondered.
“We’re going to name it after the Reverend Al Sharpton?” he added.
The president was speaking to Chris Wallace of Fox News.
Trump in June threatened to veto the defense spending bill if the amendment, which was introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and approved by the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee, isn’t removed.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) responded by saying the Senate would “probably override the veto” if one came.