Ben Carson tells NASCAR fans he's A-OK with the Confederate flag: "I certainly wouldn't take it down"

The GOP contender says he's fine with those who fly the Confederate flag on private property

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 29, 2015 7:29PM (EDT)

  (Jeffery Malet,
(Jeffery Malet,

Ben Carson took a quick jaunt down to North Carolina this week, a state where he runs only five percentage points behind Republican presidential frontunner Donald Trump, to nibble on his first hush puppies and lobby for the endorsement of NASCAR icon Richard Petty -- all while doing his darndest not to offend Confederate flag flyers.

Calling it a "local issue," Carson argued that if a majority of residents in any one area wish to continue flying the flag, "I certainly wouldn’t take it down.”

Cason, who was recently heralded as "the most brilliant guy" by Kanye West looked to diversify his celebrity fan base with a visit to Petty's camp for disabled children.

"We're hoping he's endorsing the camp, we're not necessarily endorsing him, but we are -- you know what I mean?" Petty said coyly before boarding Carson's campaign bus for photos.

Carson exercised reasonable caution when he was asked at the event about the Confederate flag, popular with large swaths of Nascar fans, but still managed to endorse the flying of a flag he admitted symbolized hatred much like the Swastika. From the Associated Press’ Steve Peoples:

Carson told the AP that NASCAR fans should continue flying the flag “if it’s private property and that’s what they want to do.”

He also acknowledged the flag remains “a symbol of hate” for many black people and compared it to the Nazi swastika.

“Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people, too. And yet they still exist in museums and places like that,” Carson said, describing the decision about flying the flag “a local issue.” ”If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn’t take it down.”

Carson's answer, and the fact that he was forced to address the issue while campaigning months after the June 17 shooting of an African-American church in neighboring Charleston, South Carolina, is evidence that Petty's assessment of the flag controversy at the time was wrong.

“I think it’s a passing fancy, it will go for a week or two, everybody talks about it, then something else comes up and it will go off the board and nobody will pay any attention to it,” Petty wrongly predicted earlier this summer.

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By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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