POLITICS

Mitt Romney Calls On South Carolina To Remove Confederate Flag At Statehouse (UPDATED)

06/20/2015 11:48 am ET | Updated Jun 21, 2015

Mitt Romney on Saturday called on South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag flying outside its statehouse.

The former Republican presidential nominee has long been opposed to the flag, saying in a 2008 debate that it "shouldn’t be flown" and "that’s not a flag I recognize."

President Obama approved of Romney's position.

Calls for the flag's removal have grown in the wake of a shooting at a historically black church in Charleston Wednesday night that left nine people dead at the hands of a white gunman. NAACP President Cornell Brooks also called Friday for the flag's removal and a White House spokesman said President Barack Obama thinks the flag belongs in a museum.

The 2016 Republican presidential field has been mostly silent about the issue. South Carolina's own Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is running for president, has defended the flag as an integral "part of who we are."

A South Carolina state representative said he plans to sponsor legislation in the next session to take down the flag.

UPDATE: Presidential contender and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina on Saturday said the decision of what to do about the flag was best left up to the people of South Carolina.

"I think it's clearly a symbol that is very offensive to many, but my personal opinion is not what's relevant here," she said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C. "What's relevant here is what the people of South Carolina choose to do next."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) echoed that sentiment Saturday, telling The Washington Post that while he understood "both sides," the people of South Carolina ultimately ought to have the final say.

“Both those who see a history of racial oppression and a history of slavery, which is the original sin of our nation, and we fought a bloody civil war to expunge that sin," he said.

"I also understand those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states, not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions and I think often this issue is used as a wedge to try to divide people," he added.

In a statement passed along by his spokeswoman, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush noted that in 2001 he had ordered the removal of the Confederate flag that had flown at the state capitol in Tallahassee "to a museum where it belonged."

"This is obviously a very sensitive time in South Carolina and our prayers are with the families, the AME church community and the entire state," he added. "Following a period of mourning there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward, and I'm confident they will do the right thing."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement, “The placement of a Confederate flag on the Capitol grounds is a state issue and I fully expect the leaders of South Carolina to debate this but the conversation should wait until after the families have had a chance to bury and mourn their loved ones.”

Representatives for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) did not return requests for comment.

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