Three days after Time Warner’s HBO star John Oliver called for South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag flying at its capitol building, Time Warner’s Warner Bros. Consumer Products announced it would stop participating in Confederate flag merchandising.
Interestingly, Oliver’s on-air call to action – delivered four days after a white supremacist walked into an historically black Charleston, S.C. church, sat for an hour with a bible-study class, then murdered nine participants – Oliver made the case that Confederate flags should still be available on merchandise such as T shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers “to help us identify the worst people in the world.” The killer, Dylann Root, for instance, is known to be fond of Confederate flag waving, and Confederate flag license plates.
Even so, Time Warner’s Warner Bros. Consumer Products announced it would stop its participation in Confederate flag merchandising:
“Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the confederate flag on its roof–as it was seen in the TV series,” the division said in a statement about the car featured in the late-’70s through mid-’80s CBS series Dukes of Hazzard. “We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories,” the media conglom division said in a statement, reported first by Vulture. General Lee will still be available for sale on T-shirts, etc. — minus the flag,
Meanwhile, Dukes of Hazzard repeats run regularly on Viacom-owned CMT, which declined to comment.
Warner Bros Consumer Products’ announcement comes the day after businesses began trampling all over each other to get out word they were dropping Confederate merchandise; the list includes Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, e-Bay, Etsy, and Sears.
“It is pretty clear nothing is going to be done about how this tragedy was committed,” Oliver said in last Sunday’s broadcast by way of predicting/explaining that media and politicians would become fixated on the Confederate flag at the state’s capitol – the only flag on the government grounds that was not lowered to half staff after the shootings. That’s because it’s on its own pole to which is is permanently fixed; it literally can’t be lowered.
The optics were horrible.
“Now might be a great time – out of respect not just for the events of this week, but for the events of the past several centuries – to take that vote, and lower the flag down to half staff,” Oliver said at the top of last Sunday’s broadcast. “When it’s at half-staff, why not keep lowering it all the way down? And once you’re holding it in your hands, take it off the flagpole completely, fold it – or don’t bother – put it in a box, label it Bad Flag, and put it some place no one can see.”
But his call to remove the flag actually followed Mitt Romney’s tweet calling on the state to pull down the flag.
Romney, acting as canary in the coal mine, also made it okay for various Republican presidential candidates to follow suit. Also following his lead was the state’s Republican Governor Nikki Haley, whose news conference performance was such a hit it instantly turned her into a media darling and triggered more talk of her becoming a GOP White House contender running mate. Last October Haley defended the Confederate flag at the capitol grounds. At the time, she said as she was lobbying CEOs to bring jobs to South Carolina that there was no need because “I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.” She also said her election to governor as an Indian-American showed the state had “fixed” racist perceptions. She had made these comments during a South Carolina gubernatorial debate, in which the Democratic candidate had said the flag should be put in a museum.
TV news outlets pointedly noted today as the body of Clementa Pinckney, the state senator and pastor who was among those slain in the church last week, was carried past the Confederate flag still flying at South Carolina’s State House. Many TV outlets this afternoon covered the story, as his body lay in state inside the capitol’s rotunda so more than 4,000 could come and pay their respects.
Meanwhile, on orders from Alabama’s governor, Confederate flags were removed from its capitol grounds this morning. And former Rep. Ben Jones (D-GA), known for playing the character Cooter on the Dukes of Hazzard, has argued against Warner Bros. Consumer Products’ decision.
“That flag on top of the General Lee made a statement the the values of the rural South were the values of courage and family and good times. Our beloved symbol is now being attacked in a wave of political correctness that is unprecedented in our nation of free speech and free expression,” Jones wrote. “Activists and politicians are vilifying Southern culture and our heritage as being bigoted and racist. We know that this is not the case. And we know that in Hazzard County there was never any racism.”