Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., leaves the office of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, November 15, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Lynn Westmoreland’s turn in the spotlight

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Congress has generally played no role in the recent debate over official support for Confederate symbols, though as we discussed earlier, that clearly changed today.
 
And though it initially seemed as if defenders of Confederate flags might be largely unknown to the public, some notable figures have come to the fore. The Washington Post, for example, highlighted a striking quote from Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.).
“The majority of people that actually died in the Civil War on the Confederate side didn’t own slaves. These were people that were fighting for their states, and, you know, I don’t think they even had any thoughts about slavery,” said Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.).
 
He rejected the position of his Georgia colleague, Rep. John Lewis (D), a civil rights icon, who called the flag a symbol of oppression. “Does he understand where I’m coming from? Well, if I believe it comes from heritage, does he understand where I’m coming from,” Westmoreland said.
In context, note that “he” refers to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). Given the experiences of the civil-rights hero, I think it’s a safe bet Lewis understands where Confederate flag supporters are “coming from” quite well.

Also today, Westmoreland said of the Confederate battle flag, “I don’t think it’s a racist symbol. I think people have misused it, but I’ve never really given it that much thought, because in the South you kind of grow up being around it, just seeing it in different venues or whatever.”
 
In 2008, the Georgia Republican described then-Sen. Barack Obama as part of an ‘elitist-class … that thinks that they’re uppity.” Reminded that such language is considered offensive, Westmoreland stood by his choice of words.
 
More recently, the far-right congressman and Benghazi conspiracy theorist told a Republican audience in Georgia, “I think our enemy stands on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
 

Georgia and John Lewis

Lynn Westmoreland's turn in the spotlight

Updated