The U.S. Coast Guard says it removed one of its workers from Hurricane Florence duty after he was seen making an alleged “white power” gesture during a live TV interview.
Video of the gesture, in which the employee casually flashes the “OK” sign, caused quite the uproar after making its rounds on social media, prompting a response from the Coast Guard.
“We’re aware of the offensive video on Twitter – the Coast Guard has identified the member and removed him from the response,” the agency wrote in a Twitter post. “His actions do not reflect those of the United States Coast Guard.”
The incident occurred Friday as MSNBC interviewed Capt. John Reed, commander of Florence response efforts in Charleston, S.C., NBC News reported. In the clip, the unnamed worker can be seen in the background, staring intensely into the camera moments before flashing the seemingly harmless gesture, which was recently adopted by white nationalists.
He appeared to play off the gesture by pretending to scratch his ear, but critics saw it clear as day.
“Nice try to deflect the actions of that sailor,” one Twitter user wrote. “He flashed the white power sign and made a smirk about it directly into the camera. This isn’t made up …”
“It is just sad that they (white supremacists) couldn’t come up with a sign of their own and co-opted a perfectly normal and popular hand gesture to fit their agenda of hate,” another critic chimed in.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the gesture gained popularity after a user on alt-right forum 4chan encouraged fellow users to flood social media with the “OK” sign in hopes of tricking liberals and the media into thinking it’d been co-opted by far-right groups. The sign, which only makes sense if the made with the right hand, is said to depict the letter “W” for “white” and “P” for “power,” as the thumb and forefinger meet to form a circle stretching down to the wrist.
However, what began as an Internet hoax eventually gained the attention of prominent alt-right figures like Richard Spencer, who co-organized the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Last year, a White House intern came under fire for flashing the offensive sign during a photo op with President Donald Trump. Social media critics also accused Zina Bash, an attorney and Republican operative, of making the gesture during Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh‘s Senate confirmation last week. Bash’s husband, one of Kavanaugh’s former law clerks, called the allegation’s “repulsive.”
As for the Coast Guard, the agency hasn’t named the member in question and declined to say what disciplinary action would be taken, if any.
Watch more in the clip below.
Well, that was about as subtle as a train wreck, on a boat.
— Michael Ⓜ️ (@michaelschweitz) September 14, 2018