HARRISBURG — Republican State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz may be new on the job, but it didn’t take long for her to become divisive.
The first-term lawmaker from Clinton County, who made national headlines this year for delivering a controversial prayer on the floor of the House, is now fielding criticism for a photo that ricocheted across social media this week.
In the photo, taken Monday at a gun rights rally at the state Capitol, Borowicz appears alongside a man wearing a shirt with the name and logo of the American Guard, which anti-hate-group organizations describe as having close ties to white supremacists. One, the Anti-Defamation League, has asked her to apologize.
Borowicz did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In a statement, she said she is often approached by people, including constituents, who want to take photos with her.
“We do not, nor should we, require ID or background checks as a condition for being photographed with the people of Pennsylvania — our constituents! The many photos taken of me at this year’s Rally to Protect Your Right to Keep and Bear Arms are no different,” she said in a statement.
The statement did not address if she knew anything about the American Guard or the man who took the selfie with her. She did not respond to the ADL’s statement.
A spokesperson for the American Guard could not immediately be reached for comment. The group says on its website that it promotes “American Constitutional Nationalism,” and rejects what it calls “left-wing or right-wing tyranny.”
The Anti-Defamation League has said the American Guard was founded by a longtime white supremacist who was affiliated with “a hard-core racist skinhead gang that has had a high association with violence.”
“It is irresponsible for state legislators to pose for selfies with white supremacists,” said Nancy K. Baron-Baer, the league’s regional director, later adding: "Whether or not Rep. Borowicz knew who this individual was or what he stood for, she knows now, and should immediately apologize and condemn white supremacy.”
Whether the man in the photo was a member of the group is not clear. His identity has not been publicly verified.
A progressive activist, Sean Kitchen, spotted Borowicz and the American Guard member taking the selfie on Monday. He snapped a photo of the moment and posted it to Twitter.
“This is a typical, calculated move out of their leftist playbook to take a photograph, distort the truth, and assassinate my character," Borowicz said. “This nonsense is exactly what Americans are tired of, lies and distortions of the truth.”
Kitchen’s tweet caught the attention of Harrisburg lawmakers, including some of Borowicz’s Democratic colleagues, who have been critical of her since her prayer on the House floor.
Borowicz delivered the prayer in late March, on the day the chamber’s first Muslim woman was being sworn into office. During her prayer, she mentioned Jesus 13 times, describing him as “our only hope,” and referenced Israel and President Donald Trump, among others.
Some critics accused her of politicizing the prayer. House guidelines say the prayer should be appropriate for people of all faiths.