NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — As the debate wages over the Confederate flag, one of the most prominent places where it can still be found is atop the famed car from the legendary early 80’s TV series, “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
The 1969 Dodge Charger known as the “General Lee” is one of the most recognizable vehicles in TV history and has the controversial flag emblazoned on its roof.
The popularity of the cult show has turned the car into an icon and is being used in marketing by companies like Autotrader.
In the Autotrader ads, which debuted last year, the “Duke Boys” are driving the iconic “General” in a chase with the police. The two then use the Autotrader site to find a different car than the “General.”
“The whole point of the Dukes of Hazzard storyline was that the car is outdated in every way — and it needed replacing,” the company said in a statement when asked about the Confederate flag. “The characters have a clear need that Autotrader can solve by helping them replace their old car that can’t keep up with changing times.”
Autotrader was careful to keep the car’s roof just out of view.
“We purposefully did not show the Confederate flag in the commercials because it is not consistent with our values as a company,” an Autotrader spokesperson told CNNMoney.
Reruns of “The Dukes of Hazzard” have been in syndication on networks like CMT and TV Land. Both did not return requests for comment.
The Dukes of Hazzard is distributed by Warner Bros, a unit of Time Warner, as is CNN. Warner Bros. said in a statement issued late Tuesday that it would stop licensing General Lee toy cars and models that include the flag.
“Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the confederate flag on its roof — as it was seen in the TV series,” the statement said. “We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories.”
Ben Jones, a former U.S. congressman and actor who played Cooter on the series, told CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield on Tuesday that the flag was used on the show in a positive way.
“The show did have a prominently featured Confederate battle flag in a very positive context in a place where there was no racism,” Jones said.
The 2005 film adaptation of the series also included the “General Lee” with the flag design.
The flag has become the subject of national debate in the wake of the murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and others have called for the flag to be removed from the South Carolina capital grounds.
As for “The Dukes of Hazzard,” TV historian Tim Brooks says the show has more to do with parody than politics.
“There was nothing remotely political about ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’… it was basically a cartoon,'” Brooks said. “It was in a context that dissociated itself from any kind of political meaning, or even any kind of racial meaning.”
One person on Twitter put the flag on the “General Lee” in perspective.
“The only place anyone should see the Confederate flag in 2015 is history books, museums, and ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ re-runs,” the user tweeted.
By Frank Pallotta