WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Phil Roe is in the hot seat after a photo surfaced of him meeting with a white supremacist. A photo taken by a Huffington Post reporter is going viral. It's Roe talking with Charles C. Johnson on Capitol Hill.
Johnson is known for his white supremacist views.
"If you have, and this is on both sides, when you have agendas driven by the press. I've never been treated like this in our local press,” Roe said when asked about the meeting.
Johnson was banned from Twitter for soliciting donations to "take out" a Black Lives Matter activist. He has made a career of spreading false information on the internet.
Roe said he didn't know Johnson’s background when he agreed to the short meeting, but it concerns local Democrats.
"It's who he's listening to, who he's spending his time with,” Washington County, TN Democrats Chair Kate Craig said. “And even that the response wasn't a strong, 'I condemn this.'"
Roe's office put out a statement saying he wouldn't have met with Johnson if he had known.
The statement said, “White supremacist and anti-Semitic views are abhorrent and have no place in our society.”
Roe said his staff did search Johnson’s name before the meeting.
"Nothing came up. Charles Johnson is a very generic name. Look, a colleague asked me to meet with someone and I did.”
That colleague, Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland is beside Roe in the picture.
Roe said the meeting focused on a medical technology called genomic sequencing, but the viral photo is getting backlash.
"As somebody who represents a diverse community, people in that community are looking for him to represent everybody,” Craig said. “The message that got sent is everybody's not represented."