Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley lamented that white supremacist Dylann Roof ― who carried out a shooting rampage at a historically Black church in South Carolina in 2015 ― “hijacked” the meaning of the Confederate flag, claiming it was once about American heritage.
“South Carolina fell to our knees when this happened,” Haley told right-wing commentator Glenn Beck in the season finale of his self-titled podcast set. At the time of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, Haley was governor of the Palmetto State.
“Here is this guy that comes out with his manifesto, holding the Confederate flag, and had just hijacked everything that people thought of. And we don’t have hateful people in South Carolina,” Haley said, before adding that there’s “always the small minority that’s always going to be there.”
Continuing, she then asserted that, until the 2015 massacre, the flag — which many associate with the legacy of slavery — represented “service and sacrifice and heritage,” but that after Roof’s murders, “there was no way to overcome it.”
While the flag is defended as a symbol of Southern pride in some states, it is also embraced as a tribute to the “lost cause” of the Civil War, was waved at Ku Klux Klan lynchings, and used as a sign of resistance against desegregation.
After the Charleston shooting, photos surfaced of Roof posing with Confederate flags, and his racist screed confirmed that the violence was committed in the name of white supremacy.
But Haley suggested the media reported on the killings with an agenda, arriving “in droves” with a predetermined narrative.
“They wanted to define what happened,” she told Beck. “They wanted to make this about racism, they wanted to make it about gun control, they wanted to make it about [the] death penalty.”
Roof, who confessed to the shooting, was sentenced to death in 2017 for 33 federal hate crime charges.
In the wake of the carnage, the symbolism of the flag received renewed focus, and was removed from South Carolina’s statehouse grounds. At the time, Haley made remarks similar to those in her discussion with Beck: Rather than being a sign of hate, she said she knew “so many people” who saw it “as heritage and respect and sacrifice but that murderer hijacked that flag.”