Giuliani Accused of Pandering on Confederate Flag

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 3:09 PM

April 14, 2007 — -- A civil rights leader in Alabama today accused former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani of flip-flopping and pandering on the confederate flag during his visit to the state capitol earlier in the week.

Giuliani, currently the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, has in the past seemed to voice personal opposition to the flag, which to many African-Americans is an offensive symbol of bigotry and slavery.

But when the former New York mayor visited Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday he said simply that the matter was a state issue.

Edward Vaughn, the president of the NAACP Alabama State Conference, who was in Montgomery that day, told ABC News that Giuliani's remarks disappointed him.

"Giuliani is posturing himself to try to get the conservative, right-wing, Southern white vote in Alabama," Vaughn said. "He used to oppose the flag, but now he's backtracked because he's running for president."

The Giuliani campaign responded that the mayor's position has consistently been that this issue should be decided by each individual state.

In September 1998, when then-South Carolina Gov. David Beasley was trying to remove from the state capitol in Columbia the symbol of the confederacy, which many white southerners argue is a symbol of heritage and pride, Giuliani praised him for his bravery during a visit to the state -- saying Beasley took "a very courageous stand at great political risk," according to a New York Daily News account at the time.

"FLAG'S NO SOUTHERN COMFORT FOR GIULIANI," screamed a New York Post headline from that time.

"Mayor Giuliani, venturing into the Deep South on another of his 'non-presidential' swings, yesterday urged South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from atop its state capitol," the newspaper reported.

Two months later, Beasley lost his re-election campaign, in no small part because of his attempts to have the flag removed from atop the capitol.

This week in Alabama, Giuliani seemed a tad more reluctant to wade into the dangerous waters of race in the South.