WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump declined to say the Confederate flag was an offensive symbol in an interview broadcast on Sunday, saying it is a source of pride for people who love the South.
The Republican president was asked on “Fox News Sunday,” if the flag, considered a symbol of slavery and oppression by most Americans, was offensive.
“It depends on who you’re talking about, when you’re talking about,” Trump responded. “When people proudly had their Confederate flags they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the South. They like the South … I say it’s freedom of many things, but it’s freedom of speech.”
Trump has in the past appeared sympathetic to the flag and symbols of the Confederacy of 1861-65 American Civil War. In 2017, he decried the removal of monuments to the Confederacy, laying blame on “both sides” in Charlottesville, Virginia, after protests against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.
Earlier this month, he criticized NASCAR’s ban of the Confederate flag from its events.
Trump has promised a veto, breaking with several of his fellow Republicans in Congress, of the annual National Defense Authorization Act over an amendment to remove the names of Confederate generals from military bases within a year.
“We won World Wars out of these, out of these military bases, no I’m not gonna go changing. I’m not gonna go changing.” Trump said in the interview, which was taped on Friday.
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