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Rep. Gonzales’ right-wing GOP challenger posted videos featuring Nazi imagery, songs, jokes

Brandon Herrera, a social media influencer, was also active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization


Brandon Herrera

Brandon Herrera, a 28-year-old Republican congressional candidate challenging Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) in next month’s GOP runoff, has  posted as recently as 2022 YouTube videos replete with imagery, music and jokes about the Nazi regime and the Holocaust and was also active for years with a Sons of Confederate Veterans group in North Carolina.

Herrera is running against Gonzales from his right in a district that hugs the Texas-Mexico border from San Antonio to El Paso. Gonzales garnered 45% of the vote in the early March primary, outpacing Herrera’s 25%. But since Gonzales failed to win an outright majority of the vote in the primary, he now faces Herrera in a May 28 runoff, where the challenger threatens to consolidate the right-wing vote.

Herrera is a prolific YouTuber, also known as the AK Guy, with more than 3 million subscribers, primarily posting videos about guns. In one video from 2022, he shows off the MP-40, a submachine gun developed in and widely used by Nazi Germany. He refers to it, seemingly jokingly, as “the original ghetto blaster” — apparently alluding to the Nazis’ killing of Jews.

The video, which appears to take a sarcastic tone, includes a montage of Herrera and an associate firing the weapon, goose-stepping and showing off other Nazi weaponry, set to the song “Erika,” which was popularized as a Nazi marching song and which has seen frequent use in modern neo-Nazi and far-right propaganda. 

The montage culminates with Herrera’s associate, wearing a camouflage outfit with colors resembling a pattern used by the Waffen SS, beginning a Hitler salute before being stopped by Herrera, seemingly in jest.

Herrera’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Herrera suggests in the video that he’s aware of the connotations of “Erika,” encouraging “the few people out there that realize there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the song we just used and it’s a bunch of soldiers singing about a pretty girl they miss at home” to subscribe to his YouTube channel.

Throughout the video, Herrera repeatedly acknowledges the potentially inflammatory subject matter, describing the montage as “The Forbidden LARP” (an acronym for Live Action Role Play). 

He adds later in the video that he made “really f***ed up jokes,” saying he did so to encourage his audience to learn from and not repeat history. He adds that he’s “not really a big fan of fascism.”

Later in the video, before firing the weapon into a case of beverages, Herrera yells, “Gestapo right there.”

Herrera’s YouTube account liked comments on the video applauding the “ghetto blaster” joke and stating, “been wanting to see you cover more funny mustache man Germany guns.” “Funny mustache man” is a reference to Hitler used in some right-wing internet circles.

Herrera also played “Erika” in the background of a previous video from 2020, which also covered Nazi guns, along with other Nazi military marching songs, including “SS marschiert in Feindesland” (SS marches in enemy territory) and “Panzerlied” (Tank Song). Herrera’s YouTube account liked several comments on that video praising his use of the Nazi marching songs.

Herrera, who also owns a Fayetteville, N.C.-based gun manufacturing company, has also been a member, over the course of numerous years, of the Fayetteville chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In 2014, he filmed a video for the SCV chapter to welcome and advertise to new members.

“The SCV… is a historical honor society dedicated to preserving confederate heritage and learning more about our ancestors who fought and died in the War of Northern Aggression,” Herrera says in the video, wearing a shirt featuring a Confederate flag and using a term that places blame for the Civil War on the Union.

Herrera says in the video that the group’s purpose is to “celebrate” and “protect” Confederate history. He adds that the group also holds an “annual Yankee shoot,” where the group uses antique rifles to shoot at “posters of our favorite Yankees,” as well as an annual ball honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and a summer camp honoring another Confederate figure. He also complains about a highway built next to the site of a major Confederate arsenal, which he said is “totally disrespecting the heritage.”

“We’re here to protect sites like this, and stop things like that from happening,” he continues, pointing at the highway. “Because those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

In another 2014 welcome video, he refers to the Civil War as “the war for Southern Independence.” Herrera can also be seen in a brief clip included in a 2013 promo for the SCV camp; that video begins with the line, “we learned to fire the cannons at the heathen Yankee horde,” and also includes a reference to “train[ing] to kill some Yankees.”

He remained active with the group until at least 2019: he’s seen in one photo from the July 2019 SCV National Reunion in Mobile, Ala., in front of a “Confederate Dead” monument, and also led the group in singing “Dixie,” an anthem of the Confederacy, in a video from that reunion.

In a February 2019 photo also posted by the Fayetteville chapter, he appears with the group in full Confederate uniform as part of an “Honor Guard.” The photo is captioned “paying the last respects for a Fellow Compatriot.”
A Brandon Joseph Herrera is also registered to vote from an address in Fayetteville, according to North Carolina’s voter registration database. A Google Street View search for that address shows, as of January 2024, a Confederate flag and a blue flag with a single white star — briefly used by the Confederacy — flying on a flagpole in the front yard.

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