(Getty Images) South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, called on Monday for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.
Haley held a press conference Monday afternoon to express her position on the issue, which has become a renewed focus after a racially motivated church shooting that left nine people dead last week.
"It's time to move the flag from Capitol grounds," Haley said.
She said 21-year-old Dylann Roof, the man police suspect of shooting and killing nine people in the church, had a "sick and twisted" view of the flag.
Haley was joined at the press conference by a bipartisan coalition of local and national leaders, including Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina).
"This has been a very difficult time for our state," Haley said. "We have stared evil in the eye. ... Our state is grieving, but we are also coming together."
Priebus subsequently said in a statement that he supported Haley's call, saying the flag "represents serious divisions that must be mended in our society."
Meanwhile, South Carolina state Rep. Doug Brannon, a Republican, has vowed to introduce legislation that would remove the Confederate flag from federal buildings.
Brannon said he'll introduce the bill as soon as he can, expressing regret that he hadn't done so earlier in his career.
"The switch that flipped was the death of my friend Sen. [Clementa] Pinckney," Brannon told CBS News. "I've been in the House five years. I should have filed that bill five years ago. But the time is now. I can't let my friend the senator's death go without fundamental change in South Carolina," Brannon said.
Brannon's prospective legislation won't be the first time that the state has been pushed to remove the Confederate battle flag from its official grounds. In 2000, after protests at the state capital, the flag was removed from the capitol dome and moved just yards away to a nearby confederate memorial. Pro-Confederate flag activists present at the ceremony chanted "Off the dome, and in your face," according to The Washington Post.
But the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston has again rallied support against the symbol. On Saturday night, graffiti artists painted the words, "Black Lives Matter," on a Confederate memorial in Charleston. The question on whether to remove the flag has vexed Republican presidential candidates — some of whom have called for its removal and others of whom have hedged and urged the issue to be left to South Carolina to decide.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) June 20, 2015
After Haley's press conference on Monday, several GOP candidates and potential hopefuls came out in support of her stance.
“I fully support Governor Haley’s leadership today in calling for the flag to come down," said Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who is considered likely to run. "This is a decision for South Carolina to make and they are now starting that process. Like Governor Haley, I believe the flag should come down."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is likely to officially announce his candidacy in the coming weeks, said in a tweet that he agreed with Haley's decision:
I am glad @nikkihaley is calling for the Confederate flag to come down. I support her decision - SKW
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) June 22, 2015
Despite the tragic, racially motivated killings last week, the issue of the flag remains a divisive issue. Brannon told CBS that he feared that his push to ban the flag would cost him his reelection. In 2000, Sen. John McCain flip-flopped several times about his position on the flag's place in South Carolina.
“I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary,” McCain told The New York Times in 2000. ”So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.”
The White House announced Monday that President Barack Obama would travel to Charleston on Friday to deliver the eulogy at Pinckney's funeral proceedings. Vice President Joe Biden will also attend.
(Reuters / Carlo Allegri)
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