McDonnell, Allen have insulted Virginia's Civil War Confederate heritage, group Charges
By Michael Ruane and Anita Kumar
Officials of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on Tuesday decried what they called a "tide of political correctness" among Virginia politicians who they said continue to insult the state's Civil War Confederate heritage.
Referring to what they called the nation's second war for independence -- "so often mislabeled the Civil War," said Michael Rose, commander of the organization's Virginia division -- the group accused Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and former U.S. Sen. George Allen (R) of failing to properly honor the state's Civil War past.
"For too long now, politicians like Governor Bob McDonnell and former senator George Allen have ignored, denied and even insulted our Virginia history and heritage," Rose said at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
"What we're asking people to do is just allow people to celebrate their heritage," said the organization's national commander, R. Michael Givens, of Beaufort, S.C. "After they're finished coming after the Confederate flag, they're going to come after the American flag."
Tim Nussbaum, a spokesman for Allen, who is expected to announce soon that he is running for Senate in 2012, did not return messages seeking comment this week.
The group also accused McDonnell of removing Confederate flags from the Confederate Memorial Chapel behind the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. That ongoing dispute has led to a lawsuit.
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said McDonnell did not order the flag to be removed. The agreement between the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, which leases the museum, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts stipulates that no exterior flags can be flown without approval by the museum, which oversees the property.
"It is an outrageous thing ... that governor McDonnell would order Confederate flags to be taken down at a Confederate chapel," said Richard T. Hines, commander of the organization's Jefferson Davis camp in Alexandria. "We think it's time to call a halt to that. History is history. To go back and rewrite is reminiscent of what was done in the Soviet Union."
The Sons of Confederate Veterans complained that McDonnell's "eleventh hour" proclamation honoring Lee-Jackson Day last week did not go far enough.
"We're pleased that ... even at the eleventh hour he finally did issue some statement honoring the great Virginians Lee and Jackson," said B. Frank Earnest Sr., the organization's Army of Northern Virginia commander. "I don't think it goes far enough."
McDonnell has apologized for declaring April 2010 "Confederate History Month," a declaration the group had requested in the spring. In September, McDonnell said he would declare April 2011 "Civil War in Virginia" month as he offered a second apology for his proclamation last year that failed to mention the role that slavery played in the state that was home to the capital of the Confederacy.
Allen had been a darling of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans for years, but in recent years he drew their ire by co-sponsoring bills condemning the lynching of blacks and promised to work on similar legislation apologizing for slavery. He also said of the Confederate flag that "the symbols you use matter because of how others may take them."