Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, came under criticism on Friday after she told a conservative radio host that the Confederate flag symbolized “service, sacrifice and heritage” for some people in her state until Dylann S. Roof “hijacked” it.
Mr. Roof, the avowed white supremacist who killed nine black parishioners when he opened fire on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015, posed with the flag in several photos before the long-planned attack.
During the podcast interview, she paid tribute to the people targeted by Mr. Roof, calling them “amazing people” before she turned her attention to him and the flag.
"Here is this guy who comes out with his manifesto, holding the Confederate flag and had just hijacked everything that people thought of,” she said on the podcast. “We don’t have hateful people in South Carolina. There’s always the small minority who are always going to be there, but people saw it as service, sacrifice and heritage. But once he did that, there was no way to overcome it.”
In the aftermath of the shooting, Ms. Haley called for the flag’s removal from the Statehouse.
She accused the “national media” of “wanting to define what happened.”