WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A super PAC supporting Sen. Ted Cruz has aired a radio ad and robocall criticizing Donald Trump and Gov. Nikki Haley (R) for supporting the removal of the Confederate flag from a memorial near the South Carolina capitol.
The issue of the flag, which was removed in July after a highly emotional debate that flared after nine people were killed at an African-American church in Charleston, had not previously come up during the state's primary.
The ad and robocall start with audio of Trump stating, "Put it in a museum, let it go." It goes on to state that Trump supported Haley in removing "the battle flag" from a memorial on the statehouse grounds.
"People like Donald Trump are always butting their noses into other people’s businesses. Trump talks about our flag like it’s a social disease," the robocall said.
It said Trump "ridiculed our values" and that voters should "send Donald Trump and his New York values back to Manhattan."
The ad and robocall were put on by the Courageous Conservatives PAC, a group supporting Cruz. Rick Shaftan, a consultant for the group, said the call went out to about 180,000 homes last night and was aired on radio stations throughout the state Friday. Shaftan said it was part of a $25,000 buy.
"It’s an issue that goes to Trump because Trump is the guy who claims he’s fighting political correctness," Shaftan said. "This goes right to the heart of Donald Trump, doesn’t it? If there’s a politically correct thing this is it."
Cruz ignored reporters here who asked if he supports the flag coming down. Cruz aide Brian Phillips tweeted that the campaign does not condone the ad.
"This is from someone not affiliated in any way with our campaign, and it is not something we condone," Phillips tweeted.
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said, "Cruz said at the time that it was a decision for leaders in the state to make and his position has not changed. The call is from someone not affiliated in any way with our campaign, and it is not something we condone."
In June, before the flag was taken down, Cruz said it was up to South Carolinians to decide its fate.
“I understand the passions that this debate evokes on both sides,” the GOP presidential hopeful said. “Both those who see a history of racial oppression and a history of slavery, which is the original sin of our nation, and we fought a bloody civil war to expunge that sin.”
He added: “But I also understand those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states, not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions, and I think often this issue is used as a wedge to try to divide people.”