PHILADELPHIA — Three years before retiring from the U.S. Army in 2017, donald trump-backed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano posed in Confederate uniform for a photo as a professor at the Army War College, according to a copy of the photo obtained by Reuters.
The previously unseen photo, released by the War College to Reuters after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, showed Mastriano in a 2013-2014 portrait for the Department of Military Strategy, Planning and Operations, where he was working.
At the time, teachers had the option of dressing up as historical figures, people familiar with the photo said. At least 15 of the 21 teachers in the photo chose to appear in street clothes. Although one man is wearing a trench coat and sunglasses and another is wearing an aviator helmet, Mastriano is the only one wearing a Confederate uniform.
Mastriano did not immediately respond to email and phone requests for comment. A Reuters reporter attended a Mastriano event on Wednesday to seek comment, but the candidate did not make himself available for questions.
Displays of Confederate symbols can be seen as insensitive to those who view them as painful reminders of racial oppression and the Civil War that saw 11 rebel Confederate states fight to keep black people enslaved.
The U.S. military has de facto banned display of the Confederate flag and sought to remove segregationist symbols from bases and academic institutions following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a black man whose killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis sparked protests around the world. .
After Reuters made its official request for the photo, it was removed from the wall of the War College where it hung alongside other annual portraits of faculty groups.
The Army War College (AWC), a leading military higher education institution in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, told Reuters a team reviewed all art, text and other images displayed at Carlisle Barracks in 2020, but had missed the photo of the faculty.
“The faculty photo didn’t catch the team’s attention; the photo has since been removed as it does not uphold AWC values,” the college said in a statement.
Asked about the War College photo, a U.S. Army Headquarters spokesperson said, “The Army supports commanders who remove symbols or imagery that do not align with Army values.”
Confederate symbols and dress have been adopted by white supremacists in the United States, and monuments and flags honoring the Confederacy have been removed from many public spaces in recent years.
Pennsylvania plays an outsized role in US politics as a so-called swing state in presidential elections, and Republican Mastriano, who has embraced Trump’s stolen campaign lies, is trailing his Democratic opponent in the race for governor ahead of the ballot of November.
It’s unclear how the photo might be seen in Pennsylvania, which played a crucial role in the Civil War. More than 33,000 Pennsylvania soldiers died fighting for the Union, and the state was the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, the conflict’s bloodiest battle, which ended in a Union victory and inspired President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
The Mastriano District, Pennsylvania’s 33rd, includes Gettysburg.
Many Americans continue to participate in Civil War battle reenactments, wearing uniforms from both sides in an effort to preserve United States history.
Jenna Ellis, senior campaign adviser for Mastriano and former Trump lawyersaid the media had a “foundation” because Mastriano once posed as a Civil War historical figure for a photo.
“And? He has a PhD in HISTORY,” Ellis wrote on Twitter. “The left wants to erase history. @dougmastriano wants us to learn from it. I invite @Reuters to tour Gettysburg with Doug. You will learn a lot!