By James Hibberd
July 10, 2020 at 12:02 PM EDT
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The original stars of The Dukes of Hazzard are reacting to renewed criticism of the show's iconic car.

John Schneider and Tom Wopat starred in the 1979 series, which ran for six seasons on CBS. They played affable Southern brothers Bo and Luke Duke, who caused high inks in rural Georgia while driving around in a 1969 Dodge Charger emblazoned with a Confederate battle flag decal on its roof. The car was dubbed the General Lee, after Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

“I have never had an African American come up to me and have any problem with it whatsoever,” Schneider told The Hollywood Reporter. "The whole politically correct generation has gotten way out of hand... Dukes of Hazzard was a unifying force. Mom, grandma, everyone wanted to watch it together. But who benefits from division? The Dukes of Hazzard has been shot down, I believe unfairly. We haven’t missed a generation yet, but we may miss this next one."

Wopat added: '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. But the car is innocent."

The show's creator, Gy Waldron, said he "wholeheartedly support[s] the Black Lives Matter movement and its quest to address racism around the world," but likewise defended the vehicle: "I had relatives fight on both sides of the Civil War and we honored both the American and Confederate flags," Waldron said. "No one even connected the Confederate flag with slavery. It was simply a part of our Southern culture."

While many Southerners associate the battle flag with pride in their heritage, modern use of the flag was partly a pushback to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the flag has "served as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which has caused it to be very popular among white supremacists." In recent years, states such as Alabama and South Carolina have removed the flag from official public displays.

The Dukes of Hazzard has come under fire for the flag periodically over the years. A 2005 Dukes of Hazzard movie starring Sean William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, and Jessica Simpson and kept the Confederate flag atop the vehicle. Then, in 2015, in the wake of a racially motivated mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., TV Land dropped repeats of the series due to the flag and Warner Bros. removed the flag from Dukes of Hazzard toy cars.

At the time, Ben Jones, who played the mechanic Cooter on the series, wrote an editorial on the matter for USA Today: "Our beloved symbol is now being attacked in a wave of political correctness that is unprecedented in our nation of free speech and free expression... I will fight these people until hell freezes over, and then I will fight them on the ice."

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