In one of his regular Facebook livestreams, Doug Mastriano in 2020 approached armed men next to a Confederate flag and thanked them for “being vigilant” in supposedly protecting Robert E. Lee’s statue at Gettysburg. He also praised someone for wearing a half-American, half-Confederate flag, saying he “can't think of a better cape.”
The Gettysburg incident is another example of how Mastriano, who is a right-wing commentator and Republican gubernatorial nominee, has been connected to social media-fueled extremism. He has promoted QAnon; he has a “special relationship” with an online “prophet” who pushes violence-filled conspiracy theories; he has shared anti-Muslim content; he has posted an image claiming Roe v. Wade is “so much” worse than the Holocaust; and he has paid social media platform Gab $5,000 for “consulting” work. He also participated in the January 6 insurrection, which was fueled by social media and right-wing media falsehoods.
Mastriano’s view of the Confederacy has been in focus in recent days after Reuters reported that in 2014, “Mastriano posed in Confederate uniform for a faculty photo at the Army War College. … Mastriano is the only one wearing a Confederate uniform.”
Following that report, Media Matters found 2020 video showing that the Pennsylvania Republican, who serves in the state Senate, has an apparent fondness for people who associate with the Confederacy.
On July 4, 2020, as The Washington Post wrote, “armed militia members, bikers and white nationalists turned up at the grounds of the Gettysburg National Military Park … to defend against a supposed burning of the U.S. flag by leftists.” In reality, the scheduled flag burning was an internet hoax. The Post wrote that the “episode at Gettysburg is a stark illustration of how shadowy figures on social media have stoked fears about the protests against racial injustice and excessive police force that have swept across the nation since the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25.”
The Post added that “less than a mile away, at the Virginia Monument, hundreds of bikers and armed men gathered around a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.” Mastriano filmed a livestream in which he visited the Virginia Monument and thanked pro-Confederate armed men for standing guard. Mastriano’s senate district includes Gettysburg.
An apparent member of the boogaloo movement was also next to the pro-Confederate truck. Members of the boogaloo movement, who often co-opt aloha or Hawaiian shirts for their outfits, have been linked to numerous acts and threats of violence, including the January 6 insurrection. The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that the “Boogaloo ideology has roots in right-wing antigovernment and white nationalist belief systems, though it attracts a wide array of right-wing adherents.”
During the first part of his Facebook video, Mastriano approached a car with a Confederate flag and thanked people with firearms for being there, stating: “Friends, thanks for being here. I'm Sen. Mastriano. … It's good to see you guys.” He then spends time making small talk with them and tells them, “Thanks for being vigilant.”
During another portion of the video, Mastriano talked with someone wearing a half-confederate, half-U.S. flag and told him: “You’re looking good there, man. I can't think of a better cape.”
On nightly Facebook fireside chats, he suggested that his viewers find new congregations if their pastors weren’t leading in-person worship services. He gained increasingly extreme followers; last June, at a gun-rights protest on the steps of the state capitol, he posed for pictures with white men in fatigues carrying AR-15s and several others in Hawaiian shirts, a hallmark of the Boogaloo Bois, a white-nationalist militia. In July, Mastriano attended a rally on the Gettysburg battlefield, where militia members gathered in response to a hoax circulated on social media that Antifa was going to topple Confederate statues. “A lot of people here just keeping an eye on stuff,” he said. “Americans doing American things. Isn’t that beautiful?”