Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the issue of the Confederate flag's placement on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol is "not an issue for a person running for president."
"For those of us running for president, everyone's being baited with this question as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president. And my position is: It most certainly does not," the former governor of Arkansas continued.
Huckabee also said he does not display the Confederate flag and the question of flying the flag outside the state Capitol building is a states’ rights issue.
“I don’t personally display it anywhere. So it’s not an issue for me,” Huckabee said Sunday. “That’s an issue for the people of South Carolina."
Wednesday’s shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., left nine dead and reignited debates over race and gun violence in America. The massacre also renewed conversations over a Confederate flag that flies in front of the South Carolina Capitol in Columbia.
A recent NBC News Online Survey conducted by SurveyMonkey showed Americans were split on the symbolism of the Confederate flag. Forty-nine percent said they saw the flag as a symbol of southern pride. An equal number said they saw the flag as a symbol of racism.
The former Arkansas governor noted South Carolina’s electoral history – Gov. Nikki Haley, an Indian-American, and Sen. Tim Scott, the first African-American to represent the Palmetto State in the U.S. Senate – as evidence that it is not a racist state.
“I don’t think you could say that the presence of one lunatic racist, who everybody in this country feels contempt for and no one is defending, is somehow evidence of the people of South Carolina,” Huckabee told Chuck Todd. “I think we’ve seen the people of South Carolina and their character by what you saw in Charleston with people of all races, Democrats, Republicans from every perspective hugging, praying. Nobody was burning down their community. They weren’t breaking windows. They weren’t beating up on cops. They were exhibiting a true Christian spirit that really is, I think, exemplary to the rest of the country.”
Many running for president are also being asked to address Pope Francis’ new encyclical, which calls for action for climate change. Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, said the pope has started a conversation on responsibly managing the Earth’s resources.
“Our goal is not just to say, ‘Let's not use the resources.’ Let's use them in a way that empowers people to live the best life they can possibly live,” he said.