Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Wednesday that the Confederate flag “should be removed” from atop the South Carolina Statehouse and that he compromised his principles in not saying so earlier, when the question was a major issue during the state’s Republican primary.
Both McCain and George W. Bush, pressed before the primary to comment on the issue, said then it was up to South Carolinians to decide whether they thought the flag should be ordered down.
“I believe the flag should be removed from your Capitol, and I am encouraged that fair-minded people on both sides of the issue are working hard to define an honorable compromise,” McCain said in a speech to the South Carolina Policy Council.
He said that when he was questioned repeatedly on the issue two months ago, “I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.”
He still lost to Bush, the Texas governor and presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
At the time, McCain had said that his ancestors had “fought honorably” on the side of the Confederacy.
On Wednesday, he said, they had “fought on the wrong side of American history.”
The Democratic-controlled state Senate voted last week to move a square version of the rectangular flag that now flies atop the dome to a monument on the Capitol grounds.
Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic candidate, has said the flag should come down.