Coast Guard Official Accused of Making 'White Power' Hand Gesture During Live Florence Broadcast

A Coast Guard official has been accused of flashing a "white power" hand sign while an officer was being interviewed by MSNBC Friday.

The official was working on the emergency response to Hurricane Florence as it struck the coast of North Carolina Friday, and in the footage appears in the background of the interview, and makes an "OK" hand sign some claim is used by white supremacists to covertly signal to each other.

Coast Guard Lieutenant J.B. Zorn told NBC News Friday that the official has been removed from the emergency response team, and the incident is under investigation.

@AngryBlackLady Just saw this on MSNBC during interview with Coast Guard. Check out white-power in background. @uscoastguard

— Eunice Burns (@TheEuniceBurns) September 14, 2018

"Whatever that symbol means, it doesn't reflect the Coast Guard and our core values," Zorn said. "It won't be tolerated."

The Coast Guard has declined to name the man who made the hand sign.

Wearing a red shirt, the makes the gesture while sitting at a table in the background as Captain John Reed, commander of Florence response efforts in Charleston, South Carolina, answered questions about the progress of the storm.

The use of the gesture to signal allegiance to racist views began as a prank on messaging board 4Chan to troll liberals following the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and fool them into thinking racists had infiltrated posititons of power, according to the Anti-Defamation League. However it has also been employed by as a genuine expression of white supremacist ideology, claim observers, with alt-right provocateur Richard Spencer using the gesture in a picture outside a Trump Organisation hotel on election night 2016.

In September, White House lawyer Zina Bash was accused of making the gesture while attending the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh. Her husband, U.S. attorney John Bash, tweeted that his wife is of Mexican and Jewish heritage, and has nothing to do with "hate groups."

Four police officers in Jaspar, Alabama, were suspended in July after the making the gesture while posing for a photograph with the town's mayor after a drugs bust.