Backers of Confederate flag praise Huckabee ad

January 18, 2008 7:07:51 PM PST
A group that promotes protection of the Confederate flag is airing radio ads during conservative talk shows in South Carolina that praise Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and criticize John McCain and Mitt Romney for voicing objections to the flag. The ads are paid for by Americans for the Preservation of American Culture, a Tennessee-based political organization that has been in existence since 2001, according to Federal Election Commission records. The ads began airing just three days before Saturday's Republican primary in the state.

"Waving a confederate battle flag in front of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney turns out to be like waving a red flag in front of a bull - he charges," the ad states. "Romney let fly in the CNN debate, saying, "That flag shouldn't be shown,' and 'that's not a flag I recognize."' In its anti-McCain ad, an announcer states: "Mitt Romney is trying, but when it comes to bashing the Confederate flag he can't hold a candle to John McCain. McCain's been doing it - calling the flag a racist symbol - for years."

Both minute-long spots go on to applaud Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, saying he is more in tune with Southern values.

"Governor Huckabee understands that all the average guy with a Confederate flag on his pickup truck is saying is he's proud to be a Southerner," the ad states. "Mike Huckabee understands we value our heritage and why."

The flag, long seen as a symbol of racism by some and as an emblem of Southern pride by others, once flew atop the Capitol in South Carolina. A 2000 compromise removed it from the dome, though it remains on the Statehouse grounds and flies next to a Confederate soldier memorial.

Ron Wilson, who helped raise money for the ads and is a past commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Americans for the Preservation of American Culture had no affiliation with Huckabee or Huckabee supporters.

"This is coming strictly from the flag people," he said. "We have no connection with his campaign whatsoever."

Wilson said they featured Huckabee in the ads because "he's the fellow who can knock off McCain."

"We're interested in knocking off McCain."

Campaigning in South Carolina on Thursday, Huckabee said the government should stay out of disputes over the Confederate flag.

"You don't like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag," Huckabee told supporters in Myrtle Beach, S.C. "In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell 'em what to do with the pole, that's what we'd do."

Americans for the Preservation of American Culture is the third group spending money in South Carolina either in support of Huckabee or against his rivals. Vietnam Veterans Against McCain distributed a leaflet that accused McCain of collaborating with the Vietnamese during his years as a prisoner of war. Common Sense Issues, a group financed by Huckabee supporters, was placing automated, interactive phone calls that praised Huckabee and were critical of his rivals.

McCain responded in a Web ad, using praise from Huckabee himself: "Senator McCain, no matter what anyone may say, is a genuine conservative," and "John McCain is a hero in this country. He's a hero to me."

"If you want the truth about John McCain," the ad states, "just ask Mike Huckabee."


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