Doug Mastriano Praised Armed Men Defending Confederate Statue

Another example has emerged of Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano praising the Confederacy as his campaign struggles to regain its footing in one of this election season's closest-watched gubernatorial campaigns.

In an edited clip of a 2020 Facebook livestream released Monday by liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America, Mastriano can be seen approaching an armed group of protesters defending a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Mastriano—a Donald Trump-endorsed Republican whose district includes the battlefields of Gettysburg—can be heard laughing with a number of the protesters and thanking them for attending the July 4 protest, which came amid national tensions around the removal of Confederate monuments in cities around the U.S.

"Thanks for being vigilant," he tells one group of protesters before moving on to others.

Mastriano
Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks to supporters at the Unite and Win Rally on August 19, 2022, in Pittsburgh. Another example has emerged of Mastriano praising the Confederacy as his campaign struggles to regain its footing in one of this election season's closest-watched gubernatorial campaigns. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images North America

"I can't think of a better cape," he can be heard telling a protester draped in a combination of the American and Confederate battle flags.

Newsweek reached out to Mastriano for comment.

The video's release comes days after Reuters obtained a photo showing Mastriano, a former Army colonel, dressed as a Confederate soldier in a 2014 faculty photo at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. According to faculty, Mastriano was allowed to choose his outfit for the photo.

The Confederate flag is considered a symbol of racial insensitivity, and has been central to conversations around racial reconciliation in an intensifying reckoning on American race relations.

A letter stamped July 16, 2020, and signed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, in part: "Service members and civilian employees are authorized to display or depict representational flags that promote unity and esprit de corps..." and provided a list of acceptable flags that does not include the Confederate flag, effective banning it "in all Department of Defense work places, common access areas and public areas...."

But the symbolism of the Confederate flag has special significance in Gettysburg, where more than 7,000 U.S. soldiers were killed. Pennsylvania was loyal to the United States during the conflict, and was home to more than 33,000 Union soldiers who died fighting for the cause.

It's unclear what—if any—impact the release of the photo or the video will have on Mastriano in the race. A hardline conservative, Mastriano has built his political identity around his alignment with far-right movements and former President Donald Trump's politics, along with his alleged efforts to help Trump reverse the result of the 2020 presidential election.

Mastriano has also seen a steady decline in the polls within the commonwealth. Once trailing Democrat Josh Shapiro by just three points in July, average polling compiled by FiveThirtyEight shows Mastriano down seven points entering the closing months of the campaign.