The controversy over the Confederate flag is returning the spotlight to a popular TV show and one of its stars who lives in central Virginia. Ben Jones, the actor who played Cooter on the TV series "Dukes of Hazzard," is defending the Confederate flag as politicians and pundits order it removed.
A photo showing Dylann Roof, the accused gunman in the Charleston, South Carolina church massacre, holding a Confederate flag is reviving the fight over the flag.
“We despise it when racists and haters appropriate the Confederate symbols or the symbols of the United States for that matter for their hateful agendas,” Jones stated.
Jones and his wife own two stores in Tennessee and one in Sperrysville,Virginia that celebrate the show and its fictional Hazzard County. Jones also is a former U.S. congressman who represented Georgia. He served as a Democrat.
Jones just opened Cooter's Place in Sperryville as a gift shop and museum dedicated to the "Dukes of Hazzard," which ran for seven seasons in the late 70s and early 80s. The Confederate flag is on plenty of merchandise, including on top of the “General Lee” Dodge Charger from the show.
But, that is going away. Warner Brothers consumer products, the company that licenses General Lee models, is removing the Confederate flag on the roof. This follows other retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon, pulling products with Confederate symbols after the pictures of Roof were released.
“It's a terrible, awful act by a sick, sick person who does not represent the 70 million Americans who descended from the Confederacy, who does not represent the hundreds of millions of fans all over the world of this show,” Jones stated.
Jones refuses to remove the Confederate flag. He says, to him, it represents the southern spirit of independence as seen in "Dukes of Hazzard." “We have always displayed this symbol in a respectful and honorable way, and we dealt with it through a television show that showed it in a positive light.”
Jones says the flag is being attacked in a "wave of political correctness" that is vilifying Southern culture. "There is, in my opinion, a feeding frenzy of cultural cleansing at work," he stated.
He is defending the flag as a symbol of heritage and spirited rebellion. He vows to stick to that view of the flag for his own family's confederate history and for Cooter and Hazzard County.
“We are good people, and this symbol is not going away. No minds will be changed by this kind of cultural cleansing,” he stated.
Supporters of removing the flag, including Virginia Governor McAuliffe who ordered the Confederate flag taken off license plates, call it a divisive symbol.
Overnight, Cooter's Place sold 42 die-cast models of the General Lee with the Confederate flag on top. Typically, they only do about 5 online sales a day. Jones says Wednesday the rush was so much, the website even crashed.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Statement from Warner Brothers:
Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the confederate flag on its roof—as it was seen in the TV series. We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories.
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