The General Lee, the vehicle driven by the main characters in the show, features the Confederate flag prominently on its roof

By Benjamin VanHoose
July 09, 2020 11:57 AM
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Tom Wopat and John Schneider in The Dukes of Hazzard
Everett Collection

The original Dukes of Hazzard duo is speaking out about restored criticism of the show's Confederate flag iconography.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, John Schneider and Tom Wopat, who played Bo and Luke Duke on the show, respectively, shared their thoughts on criticism of the classic TV series' 1969 Dodge Charger's Confederate flag decal. The vehicle was named "the General Lee," after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Leee.

The flag — which is painted on the car's roof and featured in practically every episode — was used by the Confederate States of America for four years, from 1861 until 1865. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the flag "served as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which has caused it to be very popular among white supremacists."

"I have never had an African American come up to me and have any problem with it whatsoever," said Schneider, 60. "... The whole politically correct generation has gotten way out of hand."

Added Wopat, 68: "The situation in the country has obviously changed in the last 40 years. I feel fortunate to be living in a time when we can address some of the injustices of the past, but the car is innocent."

The Dukes of Hazzard aired between 1979 and 1985, later spawning a 2005 movie, which starred Sean William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson and also featured the Confederate flag image atop the vehicle.

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"Dukes of Hazzard was a unifying force. Mom, grandma, everyone wanted to watch it together. But who benefits from division?" Schneider said. "The Dukes of Hazzard has been shot down, I believe unfairly. We haven’t missed a generation yet, but we may miss this next one."

When asked about the idea of digitally altering old episodes to remove the Confederate flag image, Ben Jones, who played Cooter on the show, said it's unrealistic.

"That wouldn’t please anybody," said Jones, 78. "Because after 40 years seen all over the world — in thousands of jigsaw puzzles, on model cars and lunch boxes — the General Lee, by not having the flag there, would just draw attention to itself. That would be like taking the 'S' off of Superman's chest."

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According to THR, Dukes of Hazzard doesn't air on broadcast television but is available to stream on Amazon. Back in 2015, TV Land dropped the show from its schedule amid a Confederate flag controversy at the time, after previously airing reruns twice a day.

Gy Waldron, who created the series, told THR that he "wholeheartedly" supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but that the inclusion of the Confederate flag image was never meant to be racist.

"I had relatives fight on both sides of the Civil War and we honored both the American and Confederate flags," said Waldron, 87, who grew up in Lenoxburg, Kentucky. "No one even connected the Confederate flag with slavery. It was simply a part of our Southern culture."

However, as people across the country protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death, there has been a renewed effort to remove the racially offensive symbol. NASCAR banned the display of Confederate flags at all events and properties, and Mississippi is removing the Confederate cross from its state flag.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.