A Mississippi man who submitted a proposal to place a giant mosquito on the new state flag – a design that went viral on social media – said he created it as a joke.
Thomas Rosete, a deckhand on the Yazoo River, told the Clarion Ledger he created the "mosquito flag," which features a giant mosquito surrounded by a circle of stars, to poke fun at a coworker who had been against changing the flag. Working on the river, he said he is very familiar with Mississippi mosquitoes and it felt like a fitting way to represent the state.
"They're everywhere," he told the Ledger. "They're terrible."
Mississippi is in the process of choosing a new flag after lawmakers took athis year to take down the old state flag, which featured the Confederate battle flag, a symbol widely condemned as racist. A nine-member commission will recommend a replacement flag.
Nearly 3,000 Mississippians have since submitted designs for a new state flag. And the mosquito flag was among those that made it to a second round, apparently by mistake.
The commission approved about 150 proposals for round two, and the state Department of Archives & History displayed those on its website Monday in a gallery. Archives & History released a statement Tuesday saying the mosquito design advanced mistakenly.
"The mosquito flag advanced to Round Two due to a typo in a list of flag numbers submitted by one commissioner," it said.
"That commissioner has requested that the flag be removed from the Round Two gallery, and MDAH staff has complied."
Many were surprised the mosquito flag had made the cut, along with dozens of designs featuring Mississippi magnolia flowers. But the reaction on social media to the flag was immediate: People loved it.
"Personally, I love the Mosquito Flag. ... the cheekyness (sic) of it is on brand," one Mississippi native wrote on Twitter.
"I'm slowly realizing my love for the mosquito flag might not even be ironic," another commented. "It's so bad it's good. I would proudly fly the mosquito."
Supporters' hopes were dashed on Tuesday, however, following the Archives & History announcement.
"I don't feel like anyone dodged a bullet here rather they squandered an opportunity," one person wrote on Twitter.
"No," another said. "The mosquito flag is destined to be in that round!"
"Fly high, mosquito flag," a Mississippi journalist tweeted.
Rosete told the Ledger that even though it was short-lived, it was nice to see people rally around the flag.
"I'm a sucker for underdog stories and the Mosquito Flag was definitely the underdog going into the competition," he said.
The commission to change the flag is scheduled to narrow the selection down to five in a meeting on Friday, CBS affiliate WJTV reports.