Ben Carson tells NASCAR where they should and should not fly the Confederate flag

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Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Monday said NASCAR fans should continue flying the Confederate Flag, so long as it’s on private property, as he received the informal endorsement of racing legend Richard Petty.

Petty’s support marks a significant step for Carson, the only African-American in the crowded 2016 Republican field, as he navigates delicate political issues in a region that could play prominently in the selection of the next Republican presidential nominee.

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The retired NASCAR driver appeared with the retired neurosurgeon Monday at a camp for disabled children established by Petty’s foundation. While he shied away from a formal endorsement, Petty left little doubt about the significance of the appearance.

“We’re hoping he’s endorsing the camp, we’re not necessarily endorsing him, but we are — you know what I mean?” Petty, in his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses, said in a brief interview with the Associated Press. He later posed for pictures aboard Carson’s campaign bus.

“He’s very humane,” Petty said when asked what he liked about Carson. “That’s one of his strong points as far as we’re concerned.”

Petty’s endorsement could help Carson in the March 1 “SEC primary,” when a large number of delegates will be decided from states in the Deep South where Petty is a legend and NASCAR is a sizable spectator sport. But it’s clear there is something of a cultural disconnect between Carson and the South that the goodwill he’s earned from making courageous, honest and forthright statements panned by the politically correct crowd will be tested against…

He was cautious when asked to weigh in on Petty’s recent comments on the Confederate Flag, a symbol of slavery for many African-Americans and southern pride for whites. The flag is often flown prominently by NASCAR fans before and after races around the country. Petty this summer called the flag debate “a passing fancy.”

Carson told the AP that NASCAR fans should continue flying the flag “if it’s private property and that’s what they want to do.”

He also acknowledged the flag remains “a symbol of hate” for many black people and compared it to the Nazi swastika.

“Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people, too. And yet they still exist in museums and places like that,” Carson said, describing the decision about flying the flag “a local issue.” ”If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn’t take it down.”

It didn’t help a whole lot that Carson, dining at a local eatery in Lexington, North Carolina, didn’t know what hush puppies were. Who doesn’t know that?

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