Actor Ben Jones, who is known for playing Cooter on the 1980s TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, is defending the Confederate flag as a symbol of “heritage, not hate.”
The actor wrote: “I think all of Hazzard Nation understands that the Confederate battle flag is the symbol that represents the indomitable spirit of independence which keeps us ‘makin’ our way the only way we know how.’ ”
“That flag on top of the General Lee made a statement that the values of the rural South were the values of courage and family and good times.”
“Our beloved symbol is now being attacked in a wave of political correctness that is unprecedented in our nation of free speech and free expression. Activists and politicians are vilifying Southern culture and our heritage as being bigoted and racist. We know that this is not the case. And we know that in Hazzard County there was never any racism.”
Jones, who is now the owner of three Dukes of Hazzard-themed stores in Tennessee and Virginia, added that he would continue to fly – and sell – the Confederate flag at his businesses.
“When we say our flag stands for ‘heritage, not hate’ and ‘pride, not prejudice,’ we mean it Cooter’s is going to continue to sell our Southern symbols as long as there is a Cooter’s. I will fight these people until hell freezes over, and then I will fight them on the ice.”
Jones, a former U.S. congressman who represented Georgia as a Democrat, voiced similar sentiments in an op-ed in The New York Times Friday, declaring that although “some racists have appropriated” the battle flag, millions of people view it as a “symbol of a non-racist Southern spirit.”
After racially charged photos of Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof, 21, surfaced on a website Saturday (including one of him brandishing a Confederate flag), South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the symbol to be removed from state capitol grounds.
And on Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered that four Confederate flags be taken down from a Confederate memorial at the state capitol, CNN reports.
Politicians from both parties, including Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush, have also publicly said the flag should be removed following the killings.
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura weighed in on the controversy on his political talk show Off the Grid Wednesday, calling for Confederate flags to be displayed only in museums and saying, “We have to look at our past so we can learn from it, but we don’t need to flaunt it.”
“We don’t need to sit and flaunt slavery.”