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Jeb Bush had Confederate flag taken down from Florida Capitol in 2001

via @lesleyclark

President Barack Obama agrees with calls to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state House grounds in the wake of the church shooting that killed 9 African-American worshipers, the White House says.

Obama has said before that he believes the flag “belongs in a museum,” spokesman Eric Schultz said, “And that’s still his position.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham earlier Friday said he hoped the flag wasn’t used as an excuse for the shooter’s actions.

"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 presidential hopeful told CNN's "New Day."

Graham’s fellow Republican presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush, and then Secretary of State Katherine Harris, had a Confederate flag quietly removed from the Florida state Capitol in 2001, with little fanfare.

At a black history celebration at the governor's mansion soon after making the call, Bush said he had the flag and pole removed because Florida is a "progressive, forward-thinking state."

"I thought it was appropriate to take those flags down and put them in the museum where people can appreciate our heritage, but not have them fly as a symbol of what we are today as a state," Bush said.

A spokeswoman for Bush at the time said that “regardless of our views about the symbolism of the . . . flags -- and people of goodwill can disagree on the subject -- the governor believes that most Floridians would agree that the symbols of Florida's past should not be displayed in a manner that may divide Floridians today.”

Flags commemorating the French, Spanish and British governments that once ruled the state and flew beside the Confederate flag also were removed and were to be housed at the Florida Museum of History a few blocks from the Capitol, the St. Petersburg Times wrote at the time.

Florida State Conference of the NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze wrote in the Miami Heraldthat the move showed Bush “knew that the Confederate flag, unlike the American flag, does not represent all of us — and it should be history: a part of our past.”

At the time, however, State Sen. Kendrick Meek, a black Democrat from Miami and vocal critic of Gov. Bush, alleged that Bush was looking to improve his standing with black voters in advance of the 2002 election. Bush’s office rejected the allegation and said it had long been thinking of removing the flag.

The decision did not sit well with at least one group that says the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans hoisted the banner on a march from the governor's mansion to his office, protesting Gov. Bush's decision to remove the Civil War-era icon from a flagpole at the Capitol.

Carrying signs that read "One Term Jeb!" the Southern heritage organization, vowed to seek revenge at the polls in November 2002, saying Bush had betrayed their history and culture when he consigned the flag to a Capitol museum.

--Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

--LESLEY CLARK, McClatchy Washington Bureau

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