The TV Land cable network announced Wednesday that it was pulling repeat episodes of the popular series "The Dukes of Hazzard" in the wake of a nationwide debate over the symbolism of the Confederate flag. The "General Lee" — the gravity-defying Dodge Charger featured prominently on the show — is emblazoned with the stars and bars on its hood.
The network declined to make an official statement on their decision but confirmed the move with several news outlets.
John Schneider, one of the show's original stars, slammed TV Land's actions in a July 1 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "'The Dukes of Hazzard' was and is no more a show seated in racism than 'Breaking Bad' was a show seated in reality,” he said. The veteran actor went on to say he was "saddened that one angry and misguided individual can cause one of the most beloved television shows in the history of the medium to suddenly be seen in this light." Schneider was referencing Dylann Roof, the confessed shooter in the June 17 massacre of nine people at a predominately black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Roof has been photographed in the past brandishing the Confederate flag and it also appeared on his license plate. In the aftermath of the killings, several prominent politicians like South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have called for the flag's removal from state grounds and corporate entities like Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Sears, and NASCAR have all promised to stop selling, supporting or promoting items which feature the stars and bars.
The decision to yank the 1979-1985 CBS show came just days after Warner Brothers decided to stop allowing manufacturers to license products that feature the General Lee.
“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,” a spokesman for the company said in a June 24 email. “We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories.”
Although the show's prominent use of the Confederate symbol has always been controversial, Warner Bros. had refused to alter its “Dukes of Hazzard” products as recently as 2012, despite public pressure to do so.
When the TV series was adapted into a feature film in 2005, filmmakers tried to poke fun at the car's cultural insensitivity. However, when Schneider and his original co-star Tom Wopat were reunited for an AutoTrader commercial last year the company deliberately declined to show the flag on the hood of the General Lee.
“The whole point of the Dukes of Hazzard storyline was that the car is outdated in every way — and it needed replacing,” an AutoTrader recently spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Money.
Meanwhile, former actor and Congressman Ben Jones, who played Cooter on "The Dukes of Hazzard," has been on a tear lately, defending his show's use of the symbol on various news outlets and in op-eds. Jones, who is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, recently wrote on Facebook: "That flag on top of the General Lee made a statement that 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. 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," he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Schneider tweeted a picture of Roof burning the American flag while wearing a T-shirt featuring the emblem fo Gold's Gym. “I am grossly offended by flag burning. But … is the Gold’s Gym logo to be considered a symbol of racism as well now?” he wrote. In his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Schneider implied that the tweet was meant to be facetious, but he also argued that “throwing this particular, baby out with the bathwater seems reactionary and overly PC to me."
“If the flag was a symbol of racism, then Bo and Luke and Daisy and Uncle Jesse were a pack of wild racists, and that could not be further from the truth,” he continued.
However, critics have countered that the show may have played a negative role in whitewashing the history of the South and making the flag feel harmless. As Megan Garber argued in a June 23 column for The Atlantic: "The Dukes of Hazzard" solidified the idea that the flag could have — or at least could claim to have — an alternate meaning besides the original one of defiant racism."
This is not the first time TV Land has yanked a show that has become an indirect source of controversy. When allegations of drugging and sexual assault against comedian Bill Cosby resurfaced late last year, the network stopping running episodes of his iconic sitcom "The Cosby Show."