(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump recently suggested that those who burn the American flag should be jailed or have their citizenship revoked — but it appears he did not always feel that way.
In an interview done with David Letterman on Jan. 8, 2015, just months before he launched his campaign, Trump agreed with Letterman “100 percent” that flag burning is a form of expression.
As first reported by the Washington Post, the men were discussing the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Trump mentioned that the magazine had a lot of problems, while expressing his shock that such an attack could have happened.
“Here’s the example I’m always proud of as an American,” Letterman countered. “People, to demonstrate, they think, we’re really gonna stick it the United States. ‘We’re going to set fire to the flag.’ ”
“Yeah, right,” Trump responded.
“And people get — ‘Oh my God!’ ” Letterman said. “Well, no. If that’s how you feel, go ahead and burn the flag. Because this country is far greater than that symbol, and that symbol is standing for freedom of expression.”
“Sure. You’re 100 percent right,” Trump said, adding “I understand where you’re coming from. It’s terrific.”
But now that he’s been elected, Trump appears to have reversed himself, tweeting his sentiments earlier this week. His transition team has not responded to a request for comment.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
According to court rulings, burning the American flag, is a protected form of expression under the First Amendment. Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Trump has repeatedly praised, though personally hated the idea of flag burning, told CNN in 2012 that it was protected.
“Yes, if I were king, I — I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged. And it is addressed, in particular, to speech critical of the government. I mean, that was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress. Burning the flag is a form of expression. Speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words. It could be semaphore. And burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea,” Scalia said at the time.
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