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'Dukes of Hazzard' stars respond to Confederate flag controversy

"Dukes of Hazzard" stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat responded to the renewed controversy over the Confederate flag on their characters' car.
/ Source: TODAY

The stars of "Dukes of Hazzard" are responding to the renewed controversy over the Confederate flag that appeared on their characters' car.

John Schneider and Tom Wopat, who played cousins Bo and Luke Duke on the series, opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about the flag, which was painted on the roof of the Dukes' orange 1969 Dodge Charger, which they named the General Lee after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

TH Dukes of Hazzard TV Series 1979 - 1985 USA Created by Gy Waldron Tom Wopat , John Schneider , Catherine Bach. Image shot 1979. Exact date unknown.
The stars of "Dukes of Hazzard" are responding to the controversy over the Confederate flag painted on the roof of their characters' car, The General Lee. Alamy Stock Photo

"I have never had an African American come up to me and have any problem with it whatsoever," said Schneider, 60, who added that "the whole politically correct generation has gotten way out of hand."

Schneider went on to call the series, which was set in fictional Hazzard County, Georgia, "a unifying force."

"Mom, grandma, everyone wanted to watch it together. But who benefits from division?" he asked. "'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."

Wopat, 68, on the other hand, thought it was right to revisit the subject of the flag — though he defended its appearance on the show.

"The situation in the country has obviously changed in the last 40 years. I feel fortunate to be living in a time when we can address some of the injustices of the past," he said. "But the car is innocent."

The show's creator, Gy Waldron, told THR he "wholeheartedly" supported the Black Lives Matter movement "and its quest to address racism around the world."

But Waldron, 87, who grew up in Lenoxburg, Kentucky, said he remembered seeing both the Confederate flag and the American flag flying side-by-side during his childhood. "I had relatives fight on both sides of the Civil War and we honored both the American and Confederate flags," said Waldron. "No one even connected the Confederate flag with slavery. It was simply a part of our Southern culture."

"The Dukes of Hazzard" aired from 1979 to 1985 on CBS. It later inspired a 2005 feature film, which also featured the Confederate flag image on the roof of the General Lee.

In June 2015, TV Land announced it would pull reruns of the series from its lineup because of controversy surrounding the flag atop the Dukes' car. Warner Brothers also announced it would no longer sell products featuring the Confederate flag — including "Dukes of Hazzard" merchandise.

The 'General Lee' From The Dukes of Hazzard'
Tom Wopat, who played Luke Duke, said he felt "fortunate to be living in a time when we can address some of the injustices of the past," but, he added, the General Lee "is innocent."CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images

The Confederate States of America existed from 1861 until 1865. Its flag is seen by many as a symbol of slavery and racism. The flag's continued use has been re-examined amid protests over the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.

In June, NASCAR announced it had banned the Confederate flag from its races and properties, a move that was applauded by many NASCAR drivers, including Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR's top series.

Also in June, the Mississippi Legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the Mississippi state flag after 126 years. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, quickly signed the bill, calling the signing “a solemn occasion” and a chance for people to put their divisions behind them.