Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that white supremacist Dylann Roof “hijacked” the Confederate flag by carrying out a mass killing of African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church in 2015.
Haley was governor of South Carolina at the time.
“Here is this guy who comes out with this manifesto, holding the Confederate flag, and had just hijacked everything that people thought of,” Haley said in an interview with host Glenn Beck published Friday on his website, the Blaze. “We don’t have hateful people in South Carolina. There’s always the small minority that is always going to be there, but, you know, people saw it [the flag] as service and sacrifice and heritage, and, but once he did that there was no way to overcome it.”
On June 17, 2015, Roof entered a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and opened fire, killing nine people in the hope, he later told police, of starting a race war. In photos posted to his website, Roof regularly posed with the Confederate battle flag, the most widely adopted symbol of the Old South. The flag contains 13 stars, one for each of the states that seceded from the Union over the right to own slaves. The first skirmish of what would become the Civil War took place at Fort Sumter, outside Charleston, when rebel forces fired on U.S. troops.
The national outrage over Roof’s massacre led Haley to order the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. It was first raised there in 1961 as part of a Civil War centennial, and also, historians say, as part of a campaign by many Southern states of resistance to the civil rights movement.
During a 2015 press conference just days after the shooting, Haley noted that many residents of South Carolina viewed flying the Confederate flag as “a way to honor ancestors who came to the service of their state during a time of conflict.” She added that for others in the state, “the flag was a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.”
“The events of this past week call on us to look at this in a different way.”
Ending the display of the flag and the launch of the movement to take down Confederate statues and monuments led to demonstrations in many Southern states, including the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that resulted in the death of a protester.
In her interview with Beck, however, Haley said the “national media” falsely portrayed Roof’s massacre, which he boasted was meant to start a race war, as “about racism.”
“And the national media came in in droves, they wanted to define what happened,” Haley explained. “They wanted to make this about racism. They wanted to make it about gun control. They wanted to make it about [the] death penalty, and I really pushed off the national media and said there will be a time and place where we talk about this, but it is not now. We’re going to get through the funerals. We’re going to respect them, and then we will have that conversation.”
Haley, whose political future has been the subject of speculation since she resigned her post at the United Nations, has been touring the country to promote her new book, “With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace.”
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