Doug Mastriano’s campaign took down social media profile pictures of the Republican gubernatorial nominee in his U.S. Army uniforms after learning they violated a Department of Defense policy, an Army spokesperson said.
The pictures showed Mastriano on Facebook smiling in a dress uniform and beret, and in camouflage fatigues on Twitter. Pittsburgh NPR station WESA-FM reported they were removed last week.
Mastriano, who was a strategic intelligence officer in the Army for 20 years, has incorporated his military background into his political career.
But the use of those photographs and others showing Mastriano interacting with Afghan orphans or posing with fellow soldiers ran afoul of armed service restrictions on the use of such images in political campaigns, Army spokesperson Matthew Leonard told the Capital-Star on Monday.
“Any military information posted by a military member not on active duty, must be accompanied by a prominent and clearly displayed disclaimer that neither the military information nor the photographs imply endorsement by the Army,” Leonard said.
The profile pictures on Mastriano’s campaign pages on Facebook and Twitter had been replaced Monday afternoon with an image of Mastriano in fatigues captioned “Afghanistan 2006.”
The image includes a disclaimer that is partially cropped out on the Facebook page. Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Leonard said the Army was contacted by a member of the news media about Mastriano’s use of the images. In a report Monday, WESA-FM said it asked the Army last week whether the images violated the Department of Defense policy.
“The Army contacted Mr. Mastriano’s campaign and advised it of the rules for imagery use contained within the DoD Directive and Army Regulation. At this time the matter is closed,” Leonard said.
Leonard did not respond to a follow up question about whether the new images with the disclaimer pass muster.
Mastriano, a state senator from Franklin County, served in the Army from 1987 to 2017, retiring as a colonel, and serving in combat zones including the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
His campaign’s use of social media has come under fire for his association with the alt-right site Gab and its founder Andrew Torba. The site, to which Mastriano paid $5,000 for consulting services, has been criticized as a haven for white supremacists and anti-Semitic speech.
Mastriano has since removed his Gab profile and released a statement distancing himself from the racist and bigoted statements of its users and founder.
Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.