Last week, state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Miss.) caused a social media stir by reposting a 2017 tweet that spoke favorably of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
That tweet led to some heated responses, a lopsided Twitter poll, and McDaniel referring to his critics as "snowflake stalkers."
The controversy comes as McDaniel works to gain ground in the U.S. Senate special election in his state, in which polls have him trailing incumbent and fellow Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.
McDaniel told TheBlaze he isn't concerned about potential political backlash for his stance on the polarizing leader of the Confederate army — he's only concerned with upholding Mississippi values, and fighting for what he believes is true.
"I side with the truth and have always advocated what I believe, regardless of any political repercussions," McDaniel said. "Most of these self-promoting activists that are attacking me are not from Mississippi but are from other sections of the country, mainly the North. In Mississippi, Lee is still regarded very affectionately by many citizens and to viciously attack him in this state would not bode well for any politician."
McDaniel reposted a tweet that read:
"Here's the irony: Robert E. Lee was the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Army. He was a man of unimpeachable integrity. Lincoln offered him command of the Union Army, but Lee refused only because his loyalty was to Virginia. Lee opposed both secession and slavery. And yet to the historically illiterate left, a man who opposed both slavery and secession had come to symbolize both slavery and secession."
He was quickly attacked by users offended by his post, including historian Kevin Kruse of Princeton, who said Lee was a cruel slaveowner who regularly separated families.
McDaniel followed up the next day with a Twitter poll asking his followers whether Lee was a hero or a villain. Of the nearly 140,000 voters, 91 percent chose "villain."
The state senator seemed to acknowledge the out-of-state antagonists who had picked up on his Lee talk, and addressed them in a Facebook post, which read: "Quick question for my new snowflake stalkers: If President Abraham Lincoln tried to hire General Lee for his Union Army, does that make Lincoln a racist? Asking for a friend."
McDaniel, in an email to TheBlaze, said the millennial generation has traded historical truth and factual evidence for irrational emotion.
"Today, many Americans, particularly the 'millennial' generation, are fueled, not by facts and a desire to discover historical truths, but by raw emotion, which we see on full display with the violence seen on far too many occasions, particularly on college campuses," McDaniel said. "These violent, un-American outbursts need to end, with harsh penalties for those who engage in them. It is not the way in which we bring about change in a constitutional republic."
Indeed, views on the Confederacy and its legacy are still much different in the deep south than in the north or on the coasts, as polls have shown. Still, it remains to be seen whether McDaniel's stance, which garnered national attention, will help or hurt Senate campaign going forward.
McDaniel has been, and remains an outsider candidate, a role he embraces. He recently said he could only see himself working with three members of the Senate.
“I’d just as soon trust the first 100 members of the phone book than I would the Senate,” McDaniel said, according to the Sun Herald.