South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell (R) defended a segregationist restaurant chain against a boycott and went so far as to sell his products, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported on Thursday.
In 2002, McConnell threatened to impose a “legislative vendetta” against an electric and gas company, the SCANA Corporation, after it ordered employees not to park company vehicles at Maurice Bessinger’s Piggie Park chain of eateries.
McConnell’s selection to serve as the College of Charleston’s president has touched off protests from both students and faculty members.
At the time of the boycott, McConnell — a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans “neo-confederate” group — called SCANA’s boycott a “basic slap at free speech and freedom of expression.” But for at least a year prior to that controversy, McConnell had also been selling Bessinger’s product line at his own business, CSA Galleries, and continued to do so until closing in 2009. The SPLC reported that the name stood for “Confederate States of America.”
The backlash against Bessinger dated back to 2000, when he began flying the Confederate flag over his restaurants to protest its removal from the dome of the state capitol. Bessinger wrote in his memoir that sales of his products dropped by 98 percent after he began flying the flag, but alluded to “independent grocery stores” that still carried them.
“Those of us on both sides of that question, we got harshly criticized for that compromise, but the mainstream of South Carolina was happy with it,” McConnell told Charleston City Paper regarding the pulling of the Confederate flag from the dome. “And I’m not going to go back and open old wounds and animosities over this. We settled it, we moved forward, and we thought we did so in a great thing.”
[Image via Glenn McConnell YouTube channel]