The Home & Garden Television network has apologized for an online segment that suggested viewers use American flags as tablecloths for their Fourth of July celebrations.
“This was a regrettable use of our flag and it never should have happened,” HGTV said in a statement late Wednesday. “We sincerely apologize and have removed the post from our website. We want to assure our fans that HGTV is proud of the American flag and everything it symbolizes for our people.”
In the segment, titled “Classic Fourth of July Table Setting Ideas,” the network suggested viewers "drape a large American flag over the table as a bright and festive table runner."
The segment recommended using a "nylon flag so spills can be easily wiped off and the flag can later be hung with pride on a flag pole.”
Many viewers expressed outrage. “Using an American flag as a table cloth dishonors all Americans who love Old Glory—especially those who gave their lives defending it,” one viewer wrote on HGTV's Facebook page before the segment was pulled.
“I cannot fathom why y’all would suggest something so disrespectful,” wrote another. “I am appalled that you would suggest using the flag that my brother was killed defending in Iraq as something to catch spills on a table at a cookout. I am positively appalled.”
"No one dies for a table cloth," another added.
It appears HGTV did not adhere to section 176 of the U.S. Flag Code, which states:
(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.
(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
The only time U.S. Flag Code allows for the flag to be draped is on a coffin, Fox News Radio noted.
Of course, the code is simply a guideline, and not law. "The Flag Code does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include enforcement provisions," attorney John Luckey wrote in a 2008 Congressional report on the federal flag code. "Rather, it functions simply as a guide to be voluntarily followed by civilians and civilian groups."