AP

South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton is defending recent comments in which she embraced her state’s racist history, going so far at one point to claim she was “proud of the Confederacy.”

Templeton, a former state health department director, made the remarks during a town hall event on Tuesday in Pickens County, where she was asked by an audience member—identifying himself as a “member of the ‘Sons of Confederate Veterans’”—to comment on the removal of Confederate monuments across the country.

Advertisement

“I feel like ‘anti-Southernism is not a conservative value,” the man explained, adding, “And I’d like to know your opinion on Southern heritage and Southern defense.”

“Not on my watch,” Templeton answered. “I don’t think there is anything else to say about it. You cannot rewrite history. I don’t care whose feelings it hurts.”

She went on, “We’re standing on the shoulders of giants in South Carolina, and it’s why are are, who we are, where we are. I very much respect the men who gave their homes, their fortunes and their lives to put us in this position. Fortunately, we have a law, too, that protects us, and I’m sure it will be enforced.”

Advertisement

Templeton was referring to a South Carolina measure that requires two-thirds of state lawmakers to approve the removal of historical monuments.

The exchange can be found at the 25:00 mark below.

Later, when asked whether she herself would have approved the removal of a Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds following the the 2015 massacre carried out by white supremacist and Confederate flag enthusiast Dylann Roof, Templeton stuck to her embrace of the Confederacy:

I’ve already said and mean it from the bottom of my heart that I’m proud to be from South Carolina, I’m proud of the Confederacy. But I’m not going to second guess what the people in the Statehouse did when I wasn’t there. I live in Charleston, and I drive by Mother Emanuel on a daily basis. And a bad person took something that’s dear to us, took our heritage and turned it into hate. And I think we acted as a result. [emphasis mine]

Advertisement

Proclaiming pride in a rebellion predicated upon owning black people, and claiming that it took the murder of nine parishioners more than 150 years later to turn “our heritage... into hate” has understandably alarmed civil rights leaders across South Carolina.

“We have two candidates that give NAACP heartburn,” Charleston NAACP president Dot Scott told the Post and Courier, referring to Templeton and her main electoral rival, Gov. Henry McMaster. “We’re continuing the same mindset that brought us Dylann Roof. Dylann Roof did not rewrite history. He was reflecting history the way it is.”

Templeton, however, has not backed down from her inflammatory comments.

“I am who I am because of my ancestors,” Templeton told the Post and Courier. “I’m proud of my family, and that doesn’t make me a racist. History may make us uncomfortable, but it made us who we are.”