State Rep. Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes, R-Picayune, said she didn’t mean to tweet a photo of the Confederate battle flag in response to a tweet reminding people they could vote on a new flag design for the state of Mississippi.
Wilkes, who was first elected to the Mississippi House in a 2017 special election and re-elected in 2019, said she quickly removed the tweet of the Confederate flag flying with a rainbow in the background from her private Twitter account.
“It was a huge accident,” she said. “I just saw the rainbow and the pretty picture. I did not notice that it was not the state flag.”
She was replying to a tweet from freshman Rep. Jansen Owen, R-Poplarville, encouraging people to go to the website of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to express their preference for a new flag design for the state. In June, the Mississippi Legislature voted to remove the 126-year-old state flag that featured the Confederate battle emblem in its design. Wilkes voted against the bill removing the controversial flag.
A commission has been formed to recommend a new flag design for voters to approve or reject in the Nov. 3 general election. If voters reject that design, the commission will recommend another one. The law mandates the new design contains the phrase “In God We Trust,” but cannot include the Confederate battle emblem.
Wilkes said when she mistakenly posted the photo of the Confederate flag, she was trying to make the point that people should have been given the opportunity to vote on whether they wanted to remove the Confederate symbol from the flag.
“I think the voters would have done the right thing and voted to change the flag,” she said.
A group called Let Mississippi Vote has been formed and says it will attempt to gather the more than 100,000 signatures needed to place on the ballot a proposal that could restore the flag with the Confederate emblem as the state’s official flag if approved by voters. Their proposal would let voters choose between the old 1894 flag, a flag with the state seal on it, the Hospitality Flag and whatever design the flag commission adopts.
The group filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office on Monday. Once the initial paperwork and legal work is completed, the group will have one year to gather the necessary signatures.
Wilkes’ Twitter account is private. She has 168 followers.
Former Pearl River County Supervisor Anthony Hales Sr. said he received screenshots of her tweet from two residents of the county. He posted the screenshot of her tweet of the Confederate flag on his Facebook page.
“They were appalled by her posting that,” he said of the residents who alerted him of her tweet. Hales, who served as supervisor from 1996 until 2016, said, “I don’t know why she chose to put that up. It is not a good look.”