CBSN

GOP leaders speak out on Confederate flag at South Carolina capitol

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the crowd during a rally for Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan at a PenAir airplane hangar on November 3, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska.

David Ryder, Getty Images

One-time Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is calling for South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag that flies near its state capitol, calling it "a symbol of racial hatred" to many.

Romney took to Twitter Saturday to demand the flag's removal:

Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also weighed in on the controversy, saying he is "confident" South Carolina leaders "will do the right thing."

Bush posted a Facebook message reminding supporters that when he was Florida's chief executive, he moved the Confederate flag from state grounds to a museum, and that his position on how to address the symbol was "clear."

My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear. In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state...

Posted by Jeb Bush on Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bush initially hesitated to say whether the church shooting was a racial hate crime, but his campaign has since said the presidential hopeful does believe it was racially motivated.

After nine black people were fatally shot Wednesday night at Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, flags at the top of the State Capitol were flown at half-staff in memory of the victims. The American flag and state flag were lowered, but a Confederate flag at a nearby war memorial remained at full height.

The Charleston shooting, which took place at a historic black church that served as a central part of the city's African American community, is being investigated as a hate crime. The suspected shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, has been pictured with Confederate flag plates on his car and wearing a jacket with flag patches from apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Several people have already made calls to remove the contentious flag from the capitol grounds, and a MoveOn.org petition to remove it entirely from all government places has already gathered over 320,000 signatures.

A Republican state representative has also said he intends to introduce a bill in December to move the Confederate flag and its pole into the state's Confederate Relic Room and Military museum.

Rep. Doug Brannon, who has served in the state House for five years, has said he has always thought that the symbol should be taken off Statehouse grounds, according to the Associated Press. December is the first chance to introduce a bill for the legislative session that starts in January.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has also addressed the issue, saying she thinks the state's legislature "will start talking about" it again.

"You know 15 years ago, the General Assembly at the time, they had a conversation. The Republicans and Democrats and everybody came together on a consensus to bring the Confederate flag down off of the dome, and they put it on the monument out in front," Haley told "CBS This Morning" on Friday. "I think the state will start talking about that again."

When asked about her own opinion on the flag controversy, Haley responded: "My job is to heal the people of this state."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is running for the Republican nomination for president, has also defended the flying of the Confederate flag.

"We're not going to give this a guy an excuse about a book he might have read or a movie he watched or a song he listened to or a symbol out anywhere. It's him ... not the flag," the Republican senator told CNN on Friday. "It works here, that's what the statehouse agreed to do. You could probably visit other places in the country near some symbol that doesn't quite strike you right."

According to state law, the Confederate flag "must be flown on a flagpole located at a point on the south side of the Confederate Soldier Monument, centered on the monument, ten feet from the base of the monument at a height of thirty feet."