(CN) – A Republican House candidate in South Carolina is being condemned for a political ad in which she calls the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds a knee jerk reaction to the Charleston church massacre while holding an assault rifle in her hands.
Sheri Few is running to fill the Fifth Congressional District seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, who is now President Donald Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Few previously ran for state Superintendent of Education, but lost that race to the current superiendent, Molly Spearman.
In an advertisement running on Fox News and other channels in the state, Few attacks two of her opponents, Tommy Pope and Ralph Norman, for voting to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
“Weak politicians are too quick to blame a horrible tragedy on a flag or a gun or even free speech, and that’s how bad laws are made,” Few says in the ad as she stands before an American flag and clutches an AR-15.
Roof claimed he carried out his crime because he wanted to start a race war. He was convicted on 33 federal charges, sentenced to die, and this past weekend was moved to federal death row in Indiana.
Norman and Pope were among the 97 House lawmakers who voted to remove the flag on July 9, 2015. In the wake of South Carolina’s decision, cities and states across the Southeast moved to remove Confederate symbols from flags, driver’s licenses and other documents and edifices.
And those efforts continue, literally to this day, on Monday, New Orleans began removing the first of four Confederate monuments that it will preserve as public art in less prominent locations.
The Rev. Eric Manning, pastor of the Emanual AME Church, condemned the ad during a news conference last week, saying “This particular candidate chooses to use the events of June 17, 2015, for what some would consider as being political gain.”
“Certain topics, realistically, should never be allowed in the political landscape,” he said, adding that that murders at the Emanuel AME Church fall into that category.
In the wake of the reverend’s condemnation, Few said she abhors Roof’s actions and all incidents of hate, and that she believes it was appropriate for Roof to be sentenced to the death penalty for his crimes.
However, she also hastened to add that she has no intention to alter or stop airing the ad.
Rick Shafton, a spokesman for the Few campaign said its important to note the candidate never specifically mentions Roof or the massacre in the advertisement.
“They blame the flag. Removing the flag was a panic response. If there’s a school shooting they use it to promote gun control. She believes the death penalty is the appropriate response for Dylann Roof and will work to make sure some liberal judge doesn’t come in and stop it,” Shafton said.
Pope takes no issue with her attack on his support of removing the flag.
“I voted on what I thought was appropriate for my district. Last year I won against my opponent by 80 percent. The flag issue is behind me now, I’m focusing on my campaign, not taking the bait on what others say,” Pope said on Monday.
Lee Frye, spokesperson for the Norman campaign, suggested Few is fringe candidate whose attack on him is a nonissue and not worthy of a response.
“Her campaign is not a factor. She hasn’t been able to raise enough funds or support to be relevant in this race. Her comments are not news,” Frye said.
Alexis Frank , a Democratic candidate for the House seat, said Monday the removal of the flag was not a panic reaction, but instead had been a long time coming.
“This is a conversation that we’ve been having in South Carolina for a long time. It’s sad that it took such a huge tragedy to finally have it placed in a museum where it belongs. She has garnered national attention by promoting the flag which has become a symbol of hate to many of us. By still addressing it she is dragging us backwards and that is not how South Carolina should be represented,” Frank said.