Cooter is fighting mad.
Ben Jones, one of the stars of the hit television show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” is waging a war of words with NASCAR after they banned the General Lee from Phoenix International Raceway because the car’s rooftop Confederate flag.
“It’s political correctness run amuck and I’m outraged,” Jones told Fox News. “It’s an insult to the heartland of America. (NASCAR) did this to please some board member who had some pressure put on him by some political group somewhere.”
Jones, who played Cooter the mechanic in the popular series, is a former congressman from Georgia, who calls himself a progressive Southern Democrat. He owns “Cooters Place” and the “Dukes of Hazzard” museum. He also founded “Dukesfest,” an annual gathering of “Dukes of Hazzard” fans.
Jones accused NASCAR of “making knee-jerk corporate decisions based on political correctness.”
“I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s getting worse – this political correctness,” he said. “It’s just gone nuts.”
The controversy started last month when NASCAR cancelled plans to have pro-golfer Bubba Watson drive the General Lee at Phoenix International Speedway.
Watson bought the 1969 Dodge Charger for $110,000 at a car auction. He had intended to drive the car on a parade lap before the start of last weekend’s spring Cup series race.
But NASCAR pulled the plug on the appearance after concerns were raised about the Confederate Flag painted on the car’s rooftop.
“The image of the Confederate flag is not something that should play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive,” NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said in a statement released to the Associated Press.
That explanation enraged Jones who said NASCAR “forgot where they came from.”
“So why would they exclude us – all the people who helped them get to where they are,” he demanded to know. “That sport is already in trouble. It’s losing money and it’s in part because they have gone big time. They’ve gotten above their raising as we say down South.”
NASCAR did not return telephone calls seeking comment, but their decision does have supporters – like AOL columnist David Whitley.
“NASCAR is just taking care of business,” Whitley wrote in a column that appeared on Sporting News. “Let’s face it, alienating the majority of American consumers is no way to make money. The fact it’s also the right thing to do is beside today’s point.”
Watson told the Associated Press the only reason the flag is on the car is because that’s the way it looked in the television show.
“Obviously, I don’t stand for the Confederate flag,” he told the AP. “The Confederate flag was not used (in the show) for what people see it as today, so that’s sad. But NASCAR was built on moonshining, so the show was built on moonshining. I thought it was fun. I didn’t buy the car to get publicity; I bought it because I love it.”
And that’s why Jones is so riled up. He said the flag has nothing to do with racism.
“I’m outraged and a lot of other people are,” he said. “We’ve got to put a stop to this kind of thinking. People know better. “I think saying that any display of this flag is an insult to all black folks is an insult to all black folks.”
A USA Today online poll showed that 85 percent opposed NASCAR banning the General Lee.
“We can’t help it if a handful of pinheaded idiots disgrace and desecrate that flag by using it for racial purposes,” Jones said. “They dress up in bed sheets, too, but we still sleep on them – even though they give bed sheets a bad name.”
Jones said that he’s “always fought for Civil Rights and equal rights and was involved in the Civil Rights Movement.”
“I try to judge people by the content of their character,” he said.
But the Confederate flag issue has sparked a fire in his belly.
“We’re all fighting it,” he said. “That’s what we do. We’re truculent people. We like to fight. We’re from the South and when you offend our family, we’re going to stand up. We’re going to say what we think.”
Take that, Boss Hogg.