A Republican running for S.C. governor says she's "not backtracking" in her support for lawmakers' removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds but is proud of the Confederacy.
Hours after speaking Tuesday to a grassroots GOP gathering in the conservative Upstate, Catherine Templeton told the Associated Press she's "proud of the Confederacy."
But Templeton said she still stands by a 2015 document expressing support for a decision by then-Gov. Nikki Haley and state lawmakers to remove the flag after the massacre of nine black worshipers at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church.
"I supported Gov. Haley and our Legislature because a bad man took our symbol and turned it into hate," Templeton said, referring to convicted shooter Dylann Roof, a self-avowed white supremacist who embraced the flag. "But I am South Carolina born and raised, and I am proud of our history. We are standing on the shoulders of giants, and I don't apologize for that."
At a town hall meeting sponsored by the Pickens County GOP, Templeton fielded several questions about the flag’s 2015 removal and the ongoing debate surrounding Confederate monuments. In the weeks after the church shootings, Haley called for the flag's removal from the State House grounds, and lawmakers voted to do so.
"I think what we did was we reacted, and I think that's what happens in government a lot," Templeton told the audience. "I am proud to be from South Carolina. I am proud of the Confederacy. But I'm not going to second-guess what the people in the State House did when I wasn't there."
Templeton, through her consulting firm, signed on along with dozens of business leaders to a document applauding Haley and state lawmakers for taking action. After the town hall, she told the AP she stood behind that support but wouldn't support the removal of Confederate monuments.
"It was a reaction. I think that our governor managed a tragedy in the best way any of us knew how, and she needed support on the day the flag came down," she said.
Templeton, a former director of the state's labor and public health departments, entered the governor's race earlier this year as a GOP primary challenger to Gov. Henry McMaster, who became governor when Haley was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations earlier this year. He is seeking a full term in 2018.
When asked by a reporter from The Post and Courier of Charleston about Templeton's remarks, McMaster said: "I am very happy to be a South Carolinian, and I think that particular issue has been discussed and resolved.”