John Schneider is sticking up for The Dukes of Hazzard.
In the wake of the Charleston shooting, the show faces renewed criticism over the iconic General Lee 1969 Dodge Charger, which was emblazoned with an image of the Confederate flag. Schneider, who became one of the biggest TV stars of the early 1980s based on Hazzard‘s popularity, took issue with the flag’s association with bigotry.
“I take exception to those who say that the flag on the General Lee should always be considered a symbol of racism,” Schneider tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Is the flag used as such in other applications? Yes, but certainly not on the Dukes. 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.”
The Dukes of Hazzard, which aired on CBS from 1979-1985, has been drawn into the conversation about Dylann Roof, who was arrested for murdering nine African Americans in a church June 17. In his manifesto, the suspect cited an affinity for the defunct Confederate States of America, and he can be seen in several photos online posing with the Stars and Bars.
After some retailers said they’d no longer sell anything bearing the image of the flag, Warner Bros. proclaimed it would no longer license models of the General Lee that had the flag on its roof, as it did in the show. On the website of the one licensee that had been selling the car with the flag on it, Round2, the models of the car were still being sold on Wednesday, though the roof was bare.
“Throwing this particular baby out with the bath water seems reactionary and overly PC to me,” Schneider said on Wednesday. “But I do understand that publicly held corporations are in a risk-management business that the rest of us are clearly not in.”
Warner Bros. wouldn’t discuss its decision, but issued the following statement: “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. We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories.”
Round2 did not respond to a request for comment.
Schneider said that the actions of Warner Bros. suggests “a tacit agreement that the 28 million people of all backgrounds and origins who watched the show every week, and the millions who continue to do so, are either racists themselves or simply deceived.”
Referencing one of the show’s catch-phrases, Schneider adds: “Some people are narrow-minded extremists that in no way represent a majority. The man who committed this horrific act clearly fits into that category. Those who watched the Dukes would likely agree that the first person to offer forgiveness, as the members of the church and family did, would be Uncle Jesse. Very sad. Labeling anyone who has the flag a ‘racist’ seems unfair to those who are clearly ‘never meanin’ no harm.’ ”
Earlier, Ben Jones, who played Cooter and owns three Dukes of Hazzard-themed stores called Cooter’s took to Facebook and Twitter to slam those who are equating the flag to murder and racism.
“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,” wrote Jones, who is also a former Democratic congressman from Georgia. “When we say our flag stands for ‘heritage not hate’ and ‘pride, not prejudice,’ we mean it … Cooter’s is going to continue to sell our Southern symbols as long as there is a Cooter’s. I will fight these people until hell freezes over, and then I will fight them on the ice.”