Baker backtracks, now says South Carolina’s statehouse Confederate flag should be removed

Gov. Charlie Baker apologized Thursday for defending South Carolina’s right to fly the confederate flag over their capitol building.
Gov. Charlie Baker apologized Thursday for defending South Carolina’s right to fly the confederate flag over their capitol building. –Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Gov. Charlie Baker quickly clarified Thursday that he opposes South Carolina’s flying of the Confederate flag after initially saying the state seemed to fly it out of tradition.

“I think they should take the flag down,’’ Baker told the The Boston Globe in a “hastily’’ arranged interview Thursday evening. “The symbolism of this one is important and I should have done a better job of appreciating that.’’

Earlier in a day, during a WGBH radio interview, Baker said that South Carolina should “make their own call’’ regarding the Confederate flag regularly flown at the state’s capitol.

“I do believe that the reason that flag still hangs there is, you know, what I would call sort of ‘tradition’ or something like that,’’ Baker told WGBH host Jim Braude.

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Braude brought up the topic in light of South Carolina’s state house flying the Confederate flag at full staff after Wednesday night’s fatal shooting of nine black people at a church in Charleston. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white suspect who was arrested Thursday, touted Confederate and white supremacist symbols on Facebook.

The Charleston Post-Courierreported Thursday afternoon that despite the U.S. and South Carolina flags being lowered in mourning at the Columbia state capitol, the Confederate flag remained at full height. According to officials, the state legislature controls if and when the flag comes down.

Baker said he heard from friends following his radio interview, asking, “What were you thinking?’’

“I just want to be clear. I abhor the symbolism and the history of that flag as much as anybody, and I am more than cognizant of the fact that literally millions of Americans died over what it represents in the Civil War,’’ Baker told the Globe.

“I take my job as governor of 100 percent of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts very seriously,’’ he added. “And as I said, I’m sorry if I didn’t do a particularly good job representing that today.’’

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