U.S. Sen. Rand Paul belatedly weighed in Tuesday morning on the Confederate flag controversy that has gripped the Republican Party since last week's racially motivated shootings in Charleston, S.C.
Paul broke his silence on the matter in an interview with conservative radio host Jeff Kuhner, echoing President Barack Obama's argument that it's time to put the flag "in a museum."
Saying he agreed with Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's call Monday afternoon to remove the flag from the grounds of the state capitol, Paul said the "flag is inescapably a symbol of human bondage and slavery, and particularly when people use it obviously for murder and to justify hatred so vicious that you would kill somebody."
"I think that that symbolism needs to end, and I think South Carolina's doing the right thing," Paul said.
Haley and many other Republicans, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican National Committee, all called for the flag to be removed Monday, but Paul declined to weigh in. Spokesman Sergio Gor told The Washington Post that Paul was "out of pocket."
He was visiting Kentucky on Monday, signing copies of his new book, Taking a Stand, in Louisville. Media were not told of Paul's event.
The senator, who has made minority outreach a focal point of his presidential campaign despite enduring several race-related controversies, told Kuhner that he thinks removal of the flag should ultimately be up to the state's leaders.
"Obviously, it's a decision for South Carolina to make, but if I were in South Carolina, that's what I would vote to do, and that's what I would recommend to anybody who asked me my opinion," Paul said. "Because the thing is that there have been people who used it for Southern pride and heritage and all that, but really to, I think to every African-American in the country, it's a symbolism of slavery to them."