WASHINGTON • A prestigious military college in the United States suspended eight students and launched an investigation after photos of cadets posing in all-white outfits reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan emerged, an official said.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also weighed in on The Citadel college, where the Confederate battle flag still flies, tweeting: "Symbols of hate create more hate. It's time for the Confederate flag to come down at The Citadel."
The flag was the focus of renewed impassioned debate in June after a suspected white supremacist killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina - the same city where The Citadel is based.
The cadets were pictured dressed in white and had white pillow cases over their heads, with two holes for the eyes.
"Eight cadets have been suspended and went home this morning," Citadel spokesman Kim Keelor said.
Retired Lieutenant-General John Rosa, the academy's president, said the cadets had been singing Christmas carols as part of a "Ghosts of Christmas Past" skit. The photos - which were splashed across social media - were "offensive and disturbing", he said in a statement on Friday. "These images are not consistent with our core values of honour, duty and respect."
The furore also drew attention to the Confederate flag - seen as a racist symbol by many Americans - flown on campus . Ms Keelor said The Citadel was not immediately able to remove it due to a state law known as the Heritage Act that "prevents its removal as it is part of a memorial collection of antique flags".
She said the college's board of visitors voted nine to three in June to remove the flag and, subsequently, made a formal request to the relevant legislators asking that it be permitted to remove the flag.