Ted Cruz’s team stands by campaign aide who compared Confederate flag removal to a ‘Stalinist purge’

Charleston Confederate flag South Carolina
In a Friday, June 19, 2015 file photo, the Confederate flag flies near the South Carolina Statehouse, in Columbia, S.C. AP

Lee Bright, a local lawmaker who is serving as the South Carolina co-chair for the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R) compared the calls to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol building in his home state to a “Stalinist purge.” According to a spokesperson for Cruz, those comments don’t conflict with the candidate’s position on the issue.

“What Senator Cruz has said is that this is an issue for the state of South Carolina and South Carolinians to sort out and I think that’s what you’re watching happen,” Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler said in a conversation with Business Insider on Tuesday evening.

The shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine people dead on June 17 has reignited a nationwide debate over the flag. The alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, has been linked to a website that featured Confederate imagery and a racist manifesto. This prompted South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) to call for the flag to be removed from the capitol on Monday.

Bright made his comment when he was asked about Haley’s move by the Charleston Post and Courier. He elaborated on it in an interview with Politico that was published Tuesday.

“It’s not just the flag,” Bright said. “They want to take down the Confederate monuments, I’ve gotten emails from people who want to rename streets … anytime you want to basically remove the symbols of history from a state, that’s something that just is very bad … these are honorable men who fought for their homes, their home state, to disgrace them in the name of political correctness is just wrong. They’re not here to defend themselves.”

Bright told Politico the Cruz campaign had not discussed the issue with him, but he said he hoped presidential candidates would not tell South Carolina how to handle the issue.

“I would encourage presidential candidates to let us deal with this,” Bright said. “It’s deeply rooted history for a lot of us. I’m not going to stand by and let our ancestors’ memories be besmirched. It’s one thing to just take down the flag. They want us to concede that the soldiers that fell for the Confederacy were a bunch of racists and I’m not going to concede that.”

Tyler, the Cruz campaign spokesman, said the senator agrees with the notion the issue should be decided by people in South Carolina.

“The idea of outsiders coming in to South Carolina and telling them how they should deal with their issue, the senator … I think correctly, his view is, let South Carolinians work it out amongst themselves and sort it out,” Tyler said. “And that’s what’s happening, there’s a disagreement of opinion, but that’s part of the process.”

Bright did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Business Insider.

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