The Dukes Of Hazzard Star-turned-politician Ben Jones Has Defended The Continued Use Of The U.s. Confederate Flag Amid Calls For It To Be Banished Following Last Week's (17jun15) Horrific Massacre At A Historic Black Church In Charleston, South Carolina.
Nine people were killed on 17 June (15) when gunman Dylann Roof opened fire at a weekly Bible study session at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
Investigators discovered Roof was the owner of a radical right wing website, on which he posted photos of himself proudly waving the Confederate flag as a symbol of his fealty to white supremacy.
The alleged hate crime has prompted anti-racism campaigners and many U.S. officials to push for the complete removal of the Confederate flag, which still flies outside a number of government buildings in America's Southern states, and although many politicians have supported the cause, Jones, a former Democratic congressman for Georgia, is speaking out in favour of keeping the flag.
The 73 year old, who portrayed Cooter Davenport on 1980s TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, discussed his stance on CNN show Legal View on Tuesday (23Jun15), when he insisted the flag is widely used to honour those who fought for the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War and represent Southern family values - and isn't intended to offend.
He told presenter Ashleigh Banfield, "Through all of that (in the aftermath of the Civil War), through all of those resentments, through all of that segregation, and white supremacy and all that nonsense, we've come through that. We're not here to offend anybody."
However, Banfield took issue with his comments and fired back, "White supremacy is not nonsense. It just, not even a week ago, led to the mortal combat murders of nine innocent churchgoers", prompting Jones to respond, "Wait a minute. It's not a southern sin. White supremacy is a sin. Racism is a sickness that goes on all over the world. This man (Roof) doesn't represent us... no one thinks it was not a terrible, horrible thing... Y'all (sic) can't define us by the act of a demented hater. It doesn't connect."
Jones, who marched in the civil rights movement, also claimed the use of the flag on The Dukes of Hazzard's iconic 1969 Dodge Charger, nicknamed the General Lee, was never meant to offend and was always used in a "positive context".
As such, Jones, who owns two Cooter's Place stores in Virginia and Tennessee, is refusing to bow to pressure to stop selling items featuring the flag in his shops.
Despite Jones' defence of the Confederate imagery in The Dukes of Hazzard, studio bosses at Warner Bros. announced they would no longer licence toy cars featuring the General Lee with the flag on its roof.
A statement issued to EW.com reads: "Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the confederate flag on its roof - as it was seen in the TV series. We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories."