The stars defended use of the flag, considered a symbol of racism in the US, by the hit action and comedy show about cousins Bo and Luke Duke
“The whole politically correct generation has gotten way out of hand,” says Schneider, while Wopat notes that “the situation in the country has obviously changed in the last 40 years, but the car is innocent.”
Before it even premiered on CBS on Jan. 26, 1979, then-CBS programming chief B. Donald Grant squared off with a roomful of TV critics who hated it.
Among their objections was that “the two male leads appear to be on the wrong side of the law, that the subject of illegitimate parenthood was treated humorously, and that one of the female regulars is often seen in skimpy costume,” according to a Hollywood Reporter account. One North Carolina critic went further, calling the show’s stereotypes “out of line with the New South.”
Grant ignored the critics and Hazzard went on to air on CBS from 1979 to 1985, winning over millions of ardent fans in the process.
In its initial run, the series drew as many as 20 million viewers per episode and by its third season had become the second-biggest show on TV. Those fans would introduce their own children to the series when it ran for years in constant syndication.
Dukes of Hazzard co-stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat addressed the long-time controversy over the show’s iconic General Lee car, saying political correctness has gone too far as protests mount over the Confederate flag that the famed vehicle features prominently on its roof.
Both stars defended the customized 1969 Dodge Charger used in the hit action and comedy show about cousins Bo and Luke Duke, former moonshiners who live in rural Georgia.
The car, named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, has enjoyed its own popularity as much as the actors, becoming a crowd pleaser at fan and collectors conventions.
‘I have never had an African American come up to me and have any problem with it whatsoever,’ Schneider, 60, who played Bo on the program told the Hollywood Reporter. ‘The whole politically correct generation has gotten way out of hand.’
Wopat, 68, who played Luke, took a slightly opposing view of the controversy.
‘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 Wopat also insisted, ‘the car is innocent’.
According to THR, Dukes of Hazzard doesn’t air on broadcast television but is available to stream on Amazon. Back in 2015, TV Land dropped the show from its schedule amid a Confederate flag controversy at the time, after previously airing reruns twice a day.
Gy Waldron, who created the series, told THR that he “wholeheartedly” supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but that the inclusion of the Confederate flag image was never meant to be racist.
“I had relatives fight on both sides of the Civil War and we honored both the American and Confederate flags,” said Waldron, 87, who grew up in Lenoxburg, Kentucky. “No one even connected the Confederate flag with slavery. It was simply a part of our Southern culture.”