That doctorate in history that was supposed to justify Doug Mastriano caught in a photo wearing a Confederate uniform in 2014? Um, well… Jeffrey Brown was on the examining board for the Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate’s dissertation and he is not impressed.
“Mastriano’s work was dishonest, sloppy, tinged with religious zealotry, and indifferent to facts that contradicted his claims,” scholar of US history at University of New Brunswick and reportedly a US-Canada dual citizen Jeffrey Brown told Alexander Panetta for CBC News
“The prospect of Doug Mastriano having any power, anywhere, is horrifying,” Brown told CBC.
Sure, this could be a political hit, except that the professor’s objectives to Doug Mastriano’s work predate the Republican’s political career. And the criticism “goes back years and spans several countries.”
It wasn’t just Brown who had problems with Mastriano’s work. James Gregory, a self-described registered Republican in Oklahoma who is a history Ph.D. candidate, warned that Mastriano’s work was “rife with academic fraud.”
Having mistakenly cited Mastriano’s work and then realized it was inaccurate, Gregory describes a friendly relationship with Mastriano until he found details that contradicted the Pennsylvania Republican’s thesis. Mastriano responded by ghosting him and blocking him on Facebook.
“This dissertation has bothered me for nine years,” Jeffrey Brown told CBC News.[Mastriano] was awarded a Ph.D. on very shaky grounds.”
The thesis was about a Christian soldier, and Mastriano had been blustering his way about the theme for a long time.
Richard Yeomans, a Ph.D. candidate in the history department, told CBC, “This man’s credentials are unearned.… It’s very clear a vanity degree was granted to him.”
Panetta points out, “Other scholars and a French bureaucrat accused him (Mastriano) of sloppy research methods, misidentifying the battle location, ignoring contradictory details, digging without a permit anding an archeological site.”
But of course: “Mastriano dismissed his detractors as jealous…”
Mastriano has never dealt with criticism or even feedback well. He doesn’t have the kind of disposition suited to a democratic style of government.
He has a history, for example, of ordering other Christians not to criticize him. To say Mastriano has a monarchical bent is to undersell his aggrieved entitlement when the people’s votes are counted.
Why does this matter? Because Mastriano’s campaign is using his doctorate to somehow explain the fact that he was outed wearing a Confederate uniform in 2014 for a faculty photo at the Army War College, according to a copy of the photo obtained by Reuters. He had not yet retired from the US Army.
Current Pennsylvania Attorney General and Mastriano’s Democratic opponent Josh Shapiro jumped on this, writing:
“Doug Mastriano wore the uniform of traitors who fought to defend slavery on the official grounds of the US Army War College. The College condemned him, saying this “does not reflect our values.”
— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) August 26, 2022
Former Trump lawyer and senior Mastriano campaign advisor Jenna Ellis tried to explain the Confederate uniform by citing his Ph.D. in history. (It’s unclear what even a solid Ph.D. in history would have to do with wearing a Confederate uniform in this situation.)
Ellis herself has been ordered to appear before a grand jury investigating whether Trump and others illegally tried to influence the outcome of the 2020 election in Georgia. She is a uniquely good fit for Mastriano, who has promised that if he wins, he will appoint a Secretary of State who will illegally (in violation of the National Voter Registration Act) force all voters in Pennsylvania to re-register to vote.
In keeping with his local infamy (I write this from Pennsylvania), Mastriano seeks to obscure his decisions from the public. Mastriano has said he has already chosen this person but refused to identify them. “He also plans to use his power to ‘decertify or certify any machines or anything else involved with elections.'”
In determining how to take Mastriano’s extremist rhetoric, context is helpful. Mastriano used campaign funds to bus supporters that turned into the 1/6 attack and he was accused of crossing police barricades during the January 6th insurrection, though he says police lines “shifted.” Indeed, they did “shift” due to 1/6 attackers throwing the fencing. Video contradicts his claim.
Mastriano, Donald Trump’s pick, said he “saw ‘parallels’ between the criticism of the Jan. 6 attack and the 1933 Reichstag fire, which Hitler used to seize more power.”
Mastriano his Facebook page of more scrubbed videos, including one in which he calls the fight against abortion “the most important issue of our lifetime.”
Mastriano was subpoenaed by the 1/6 committee because he “was part of a plan to arrange for an “alternate” slate of electors from Pennsylvania for former President Trump and reportedly spoke with President Trump about post-election activities.”
The radical, far-right Republican pays the white supremacist and neo-Nazi website GAB to advertise for him. GAB was a hangout of the Tree of Life alleged mass murderer, who acted on rhetoric that came from then President Donald Trump about a “caravan”, which he blamed on Jewish people, as his reason for shooting innocent people.
Mastriano is not alone in being a Trump election denier running for office, but he is easily the most extreme and most dangerous. He is also a cavalier, but dedicated, manufacturer of Kellyanne Conway-style “alternative facts.” None of that matters to his supporters, who have been primed by Trump to take orders from One Master and disbelieve anything reported by the press.
But it could well matter to Independents and moderate Republicans, many of whom are backing Shapiro due to Mastriano’s extremism and because of Shapiro’s history of working across party lines and law and order background.
“Although I am a Republican, I consider Mr. Mastriano to be completely out of his league. He is ill-informed, divisive and unworthy to be governor of this commonwealth,” former Bucks County District Attorney David Heckle wrote in a statement endorsing Shapiro.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more .
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.