Rep. Clyburn Blames 'Rightward Drift' for Church Murders

By Susan Jones | June 22, 2015 | 6:22 AM EDT

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) (AP File Photo)

( - Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) blames the "rightward drift" in the United States for the atrocity at a Charleston church, where a young white man shot and killed nine African American members of a Bible study group.

Clyburn made the comment when NBC's Chuck Todd, host of "Meet the Press," asked him on Sunday if he was surprised "that something like this could happen in the 21st century."

"I've been saying for some time now, my friends in the Congressional Black Caucus will tell you, I've been saying to them that there's this rightward drift in the country that I think is going too far. And people get emboldened by all of this. We hear all this discussion about the Confederate battle flag. And what is so interesting about that, Chuck, is that-- that is not the Confederate flag.

"That's a battle flag that flies in front of -- of the statehouse. That is a flag of rebellion. We would not be having this discussion if that were the Confederate flag or the flag of the Confederate States of America. Because that flag is not a symbol of hate.

"So when you see the resurrection of this, a young man, 21 years old, wearing all of these apartheid things on his shirt, burning the United States flag...and glorifying the elongated version of a battle flag, certainly you're creating a climate that allows this kind of thing to happen."

Murder suspect Dylann Roof posted photos of himself posing with the Confederate battle flag on his website.

Clyburn told NBC he objects to having that flag flying in front of the South Carolina statehouse.

As part of a compromise to remove it from atop the Capitol Dome years ago, Clyburn supported a plan that would have moved it to the "backside of the statehouse, out of public it would not have any appearance of sovereignty," he said on Sunday.

Dylann Roof, 21, is charged with nine counts of murder in last week's shooting at the church -- murders allegedly motivated by his racism and his interest in white supremacist websites.

But according to the Associated Press, "Roof had spent much of the last few weeks guzzling vodka in a haze of cigarette smoke. Bouncing between his dad's home in Columbia, South Carolina, and the place his mother and her boyfriend shared in nearby Lexington, his life seemed to be slowly unraveling.

"In February, he was arrested at a Columbia shopping mall on a misdemeanor drug charge and later for trespassing."

A former middle school classmate of Roof told the AP that Roof recently began ranting about black people, and how "someone needed to do something about it for the white race." He reportedly made vague references to a "plan."

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