CINCINNATI – The Dukes of Hazzard are getting driven out of town over the Confederate imagery in their good ol' TV show.
The stars of the series, John Schneider and Tom Wopat, have segued into musical careers since the show ended production in 1985. Schneider says the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra canceled a planned "Dukes"-themed appearance after contracts were signed because some in the community found the show racist and offensive.
"It's a huge shock to me that in this day and age people could be so narrow-minded, especially professional people," Schneider said Friday. Although he didn't want to start a feud over the decision, "I would like for people to examine their motives, however, and their knee-jerk reactions to someone else's prejudice and bigotry."
The orchestra said in a statement that it has had a long artistic relationship with Schneider and Wopat, but "we decided that some of the messages conveyed in the program are not consistent with the efforts of the Pops to reach out to all members of our community."
Edith Thrower, president of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP, said she was contacted a few weeks ago by Pops conductor Erich Kunzel, who wanted the NAACP's reaction to the planned July 14 show.
"I contacted our national office and was advised that it would be best if we didn't support an effort like this," said Thrower. "It's very clear how we feel about the Confederate flag and the long and arduous fight we have conducted to get rid of that symbol of a very unpleasant time in our history."
The decision prompted former Georgia Congressman Ben Jones, who played the wisecracking mechanic Cooter on the popular show, to publicize what he called a "blacklisting of these guys out of some kind of political correctness that is just plain wrongheaded."
"These guys are great people and great singers," Jones, who was elected as a Democrat, said in a telephone interview. "To not use them because they were part of a show that some misguided people find racist is just wrong."
"This is a benign family show loved by people of all ages and races," he said. "I have fought racism and bigotry my whole life and worked in the civil rights movement, and there is nothing racist about it."
Orchestra spokeswoman Carrie Krysanick denied blacklisting the former Dukes: "We look forward to working with them in the future."