‘Dukes of Hazzard’ Star Ben Jones Defends Confederate Flag: ‘I Think It’s an Easy Target’
The Dukes of Hazzard star Ben Jones is joining other former stars of the program in defending the Confederate flag that was emblazoned on top of the General Lee, the iconic car that was central to many of the series' scenes.
Jones, who played mechanic Cooter Davenport on the long-running show from 1979 until 1985, tells Fox News in an exclusive interview that the Confederate flag that appeared on the roof of the '69 Dodge Charger has become a "target" in recent years, arguing that the controversy over the public display of the symbol didn't begin "until about 15 or 20 years ago."
Jones went on to run for office as a Democrat after Dukes came to an end, and he represented Georgia for four years in the United States House of Representatives, from 1989 to 1993. He's returned to acting part-time since then, and also owns several Cooter's Place museums dedicated to the show that made him famous. He also writes a number of political essays.
Pointing out that The Dukes of Hazzard didn't come along until 15-20 years after the height of the civil rights movement in America, Jones says that there was never any complaint about the flag emblazoned on the iconic car while they filmed the show in Atlanta. In fact, he says the flag itself is misunderstood.
“It's not what they call the stars and bars. It is not that at all. It's the Confederate battle flag of St. Andrew's Cross, but it represents the South,” Jones says in a long interview that also touches on the history of the civil rights movement in the South, his public service alongside Black lawmakers in Georgia at a time when the flag was less of a hot-button issue and more.
“I think it's an easy target, you know, that doesn't solve anything in taking them down. But it hurts a lot of feelings,” he states. “You know, it's divisive rather than unifying. I think the whole movement to erase things, cultural cleansing is what it is. And I'm older, man — I don't feel like being culturally cleansed. I love everybody. And I have sort of made that my life's work. But I'm not going to come back on this one because there's no point in it. What's next? What do you do then? What else doesn't please somebody?”
Jones' interview echoes recent comments from Dukes of Hazzard stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat, who portrayed Bo and Luke Duke, respectively, on the series.
"The situation in the country has obviously changed in the last 40 years," Wopat tells the Hollywood Reporter. “I feel fortunate to be living in a time when we can address some of the injustices of the past. But the car is innocent."
"I have never had an African American come up to me and have any problem with it whatsoever," Schneider says, adding, "the whole politically correct generation has gotten way out of hand."
Amazon recently announced it was considering removing the show from its IMDb streaming service due to the ongoing Confederate flag controversy, and the show is not currently available via Amazon Prime.
“Dukes of Hazzard was a unifying force," Schneider states. "Mom, grandma, everyone wanted to watch it together. But who benefits from division? The Dukes of Hazzard has been shot down, I believe unfairly. We haven’t missed a generation yet, but we may miss this next one."
Warner Bros. owns the merchandising rights to The Dukes of Hazzard, and it stopped sales of merchandise bearing the Confederate flag in 2015 after a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C. The 21-year-old shooter reportedly said he was there to "shoot black people," and images turned up online of him with the Confederate flag, re-igniting the long-running debate over its place in American culture.
A new round in that debate has flared up after the deaths of George Floyd and other unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police in recent months, and protests have swept the country.
NASCAR announced on June 10 that it would ban the Confederate flag from display at its races moving forward.
See the Cast of The Dukes of Hazzard Then and Now: