Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson says that a tie he wore in a 2003 photo is not meant to represent support for the Confederacy and white supremacy.

"I wore the tie in this 17-year-old photo because it had patriotic colors (red, white and blue), and not because it 'resembled' some fringe neo-anglo-confederate-whatever group from hundreds of years ago that I’d never heard of until yesterday," Hodgson said on Twitter Friday.

The conservative sheriff, who is honorary chairman of President Donald Trump's reelection campaign in Massachusetts, was responding to Democratic U.S. Senator Ed Markey, who last week took a swipe at Hodgson and his tie on the popular social media platform.

US Senator Ed Markey via Twitter
US Senator Ed Markey via Twitter

"No one, especially someone in law enforcement, should be wearing confederate symbols and doubling down on them when called out about it," Markey wrote, while posting a link to a story from WBUR that interviewed historians about the meaning of Hodgson's tie and quoted the sheriff defending his neckwear as "patriotic."

Hodgson upped the ante by posting on Twitter a blown-up photo of an American flag rolled up at Markey's feet as the Senator appears to sit on his porch in Malden. "Unlike Senator Markey, I would not suggest that he doesn't love America because he had his American flag discarded on the floor of his porch rather than proudly displaying it on a pole," the sheriff wrote.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson via Twitter
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson via Twitter

Last week Bristol County for Correctional Justice and the New Bedford Chapter of the NAACP unearthed an official photo of Hodgson from 2003 and sent that photo to the media while calling Hodgson an "avowed white supremecist."  Hodgson is seen in the photo wearing a tie marketed on the internet as a "Red Designer Tie With Diagonal Confederate Battle Stars" or a "Gentleman's Confederate Necktie."

Progressive groups continued to take aim at Hodgson over the weekend.

"It is essential that elected officials be mindful of the images and messages they are sending to the public and their constituents," said LaSalla Hall of the New Bedford chapter of the NAACP. "The confederate flag for many communities of color, black folks in particular, portrays white supremacy and incites a level of discomfort and agitation among blacks, indigenous, and people of color."

"New Bedford was the home of the renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass. New Bedford is the starting place of the courageous, all-black 54th regiment of the Civil War Union forces. It's disturbing that our local sheriff wold proudly display a pro-slavery symbol -- even after learning that historians agree it represents the Confederacy," wrote Alex Houston of Bristol County for Correctional Justice.

Hodgson on Twitter said nobody had ever criticized his tie photo until now, and accused Markey of playing politics. Markey is facing a Democratic primary challenger this year in the form of U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III.

"Senator Markey does not know my heart and he should be ashamed of himself for choosing a tie in a 17-year-old photo to bolster his campaign," Hodgson wrote.

Progressive groups in Bristol County plan a rally and car caravan for Thursday at noon in New Bedford where they say they will "expose the Sheriff" and renew their longstanding calls for Hodgson's resignation. Hodgson has made numerous statements of support for Trump and president's hard line stance on immigration.

Hodgson made headlines in May after a disturbance at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement lockup he runs at the Bristol County House of Correction sent several immigrant detainees to the hospital and resulted in serious damage to the facility. Conflicting versions of events emerged. Several investigations are underway.

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