Thurmond said the Daughters' charitable work "far outweighs sensitivities some may have" about the Confederate flag. He called Moseley-Braun's opposition a "misguided perception" that the flag had racist overtones.
"I've been here going on 39 years; I've never heard this question raised before. Why raise it now?" Thurmond said. "We're all one country, North, South, East, West. Why not find things that unite us, rather than things that divide us?"
Moseley-Braun conceded that the Daughters might perform charitable acts but noted "they are also devoted to commemorating and celebrating the Confederate effort in the Civil War, a war started and pursued by the Confederacy to preserve the institution of slavery."
Moseley-Braun said her victory showed that the committee, which was reviled for being out of touch during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas sexual harassment hearings two years ago, was finally "getting it."
In South Carolina, the last state that still flies the Confederate flag, opinion was sharply divided.
"I think the senator from Illinois was not only correct, I think she was courageous," said Nelson Rivers 3d, head of the state NAACP.
But Dotsy L. Boineau, former national president of the Daughters and a curator of the Confederate Relic Room and Museum in Columbia, was bitter.
"I wonder if she's in favor of removing the American flag, since slavery existed under an American flag long before it existed under a Confederate flag," Boineau said.