Both Campaigns Address Confederate Flag

The Confederate flag may be the third rail of Virginia politics.

Plenty of people are offended by it and think any candidate who fails to refute it entirely embraces Virginia’s racist past. Plenty of people believe it’s a symbol of their heritage and would disown any candidate who said otherwise.

The vociferousness of Bob McDonnell’s campaign’s reaction to the suggestion that his staffers flew the flag at their booth at a sportsman’s show (Not our flag! We’re appalled at the suggestion!) got us wondering: Does that mean McDonnell believes there’s something wrong with the flag and believes it should not be flown?

Likewise, the tweet from Deeds’ campaign manager Joe Abbey directing people to the photo had us wondering the same about Deeds, especially given that he told the House of Delegates in 1999 that he had a picture of the flag on his wall as a child.

We asked both campaigns Wednesday afternoon the same question: Does your candidate believe it is ever appropriate to fly the Confederate flag?

Neither campaign answered the question fully. The McDonnell campaign said their campaign does not display Confederate flags. The Deeds campaign said their candidate does not believe the flag should be a part of official displays of the commonwealth. Neither camp said whether they believe the flag’s display is ever appropriate.

Here are their full comments, delivered via email.

From Tucker Martin, spokesman for McDonnell:

This issue has arisen because Creigh Deeds’ flailing campaign tried to launch another divisive attack, this time over an intentionally misrepresented photograph. Proven wrong, the Deeds’ campaign was once again exposed as being completely unable to address the important issues of top concern to the voters. Bob McDonnell does not own a Confederate flag. The campaign does not display Confederate flags. Once again, Bob McDonnell is the only candidate talking about jobs, the economy, public safety, transportation, education and government reform. We will continue to stay focused on jobs, the economy, public safety, transportation, education and government reform. And we will leave the errant, divisive, and distracting attacks to Creigh Deeds.

From Mo Elliethee, a Deeds spokesman, addressing the candidate’s 1999 remarks and his position on the flag:

Creigh spoke on the floor that day and explained that the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of pride and heritage to some and hatred and great pain to others. The point of his speech was that an official symbol of the commonwealth should unite people and not divide them. He believes the flag should not be a part of an official display of the Commonwealth.

— Rosalind Helderman

By Washington Post Editors |  August 12, 2009;

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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