FRESNO, Calif. — Republican U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes of California was criticized Friday by his Democratic rival in the November election after a photograph on social media showed the congressman next to a supporter making a hand gesture that some consider racist.
In a photo taken at a Tuesday campaign event, a man standing beside the congressman is making an A-OK sign with his hand, a gesture the Southern Poverty Law Center says is used by white supremacists in some cases to signal their beliefs.
Ben Bergquam, the man in the photo, said in a video that only those on the political left see the gesture as offensive and it signifies support for those “willing to fight” for the country.
Nunes’ Democratic rival in the 22nd District in Central California, Andrew Janz, said the photo shows Nunes is attracting far-right support.
The newspaper said Bergquam is a self-identified member of the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group.
The organization describes itself as a fraternal group whose members are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
The Fresno Bee reported the photo has been removed from the web.
Nunes’ campaign did not immediately respond for a request for comment.
The Anti-Defamation League has written extensively on the gesture in question, declaring it a hoax used by far-right groups to rile up those on the other side of the political aisle, the newspaper said.
In the video, Bergquam’s said the gesture signifies either “you’re fine” or support for “those who are willing to stand up and put their lives on the line for this country if called upon.”