A pro-Ted Cruz robocall is blasting Donald Trump for butting his nose into the debate about the Confederate battle flag coming down at the Statehouse.
The recorded message, which is going out to South Carolina Republicans, also takes a jab at Gov. Nikki Haley — even though Trump and Haley are far from politically aligned on much heading into Saturday’s primary.
“Put it in a museum, let it go,” the recording begins, quoting Trump from an unattributed media interview.
An announcer then picks up: “That’s Donald Trump supporting Nikki Haley removing the battle flag from the Confederate memorial in Columbia.”
The male voice on the message continues: “people like Donald Trump are always butting their noses into other people’s business,” and that “Trump talks about our flag like it’s a social disease.”
The call is identified as coming from the Courageous Conservative Political Action Committee, a pro-Cruz supportive group. It does not mean the message came with the knowledge or approval of an individual associated with the Cruz campaign.
The 11th-hour message came amid a flurry of candidate appearances around the state as the campaigns ran down their final hours. It also touched on one of the state’s hot-button issues: the public display of Confederate battle flag at the Statehouse or other government sites.
Cruz’s camp said it was not behind the call. “This is from someone not affiliated in any way with our campaign, and it is not something we condone” said spokeswoman Alice Stewart.
A Trump spokesman called it “the same old trash and more signs of desperation.”
Flag politics are far from ebbed in the state. Perhaps its best known use as a wedge issue was in 1998 by opponents of former Gov. David Beasley. The one-term Republican incumbent unilaterally announced a plan that year to take the flag down. He was defeated that year by Democrat Jim Hodges.
More recently, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that many supporters of Trump and Cruz still have the flag’s symbolism in mind as a backdrop to the primary fight. At least 16 of the 23 legislators who voted to keep the flag flying say they support Trump or Cruz, a survey by the newspaper found.
Trump and Cruz are fighting the fiercest duel in the GOP nomination hunt in South Carolina where the New York billionaire has a double-digit lead in most polls. The pair has had a war of words over the truthfulness of TV ads and Cruz’s Canadian birth, among other points of disagreement.
Haley became a leading voice for bringing down the flag last summer, announcing her backing in the wake of the racially charged Emanuel AME Church shooting. Nine people were killed during a Bible study by an avowed white supremacist who has admitted his role. One of those killed was pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was also a member of the S.C. Senate.
While a majority of lawmakers supported removing the flag, there has still been some lingering friction, including from supporters of the rebel banner, against Haley and other flag opponents.
Haley and Trump have otherwise had little in common this election season. In her nationally broadcast State of the Union response, the governor urged Republicans to avoid following “the siren call of the angriest voices,” an open Trump reference tied to his divisive rhetoric.
She endorsed Marco Rubio for president Wednesday, hitting the road on his behalf.
The Trump-Haley robocall is one of several campaign tactics deemed questionable by Post and Courier readers, who have been reporting similar activities on the newspaper’s web feature Whisper Campaign. The site is collecting examples of messages delivered to voters by phone, mail, signs, TV and other platforms.
The Confederate flag was taken down from outside the Statehouse after an elaborate removal ceremony last summer once lawmakers voted for it to be removed. It is now is storage in Columbia while lawmakers consider a final display site.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551