Gab controversy: Democrats, Jewish leaders criticize Doug Mastriano's relationship with far-right extremists
- Jewish leaders and Democrats attacked Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano over his ties to far-right
- Campaign finance records show the gubernatorial candidate paid $5,000 to Gab, a hotbed of extremism.
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania — Speaking at a memorial for victims of the Holocaust, Jewish leaders and Democrats attacked Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano over his ties to far-right extremists and effort to cultivate support on Gab, the social network founded by a self-described Christian nationalist.
"Doug Mastriano's support for dangerous extremism and antisemitism, and his eagerness to campaign with these violent and hateful people to earn votes is shameful," Jill Zipin, founder of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
As Insider reported, Mastriano, a state senator who was the Trump campaign's "point person" for a scheme to overturn the 2020 election, this week endorsed an Arizona Republican, Wendy Rogers, who has spoken at a white nationalist conference and openly welcomed support from white supremacists.
That endorsement came after it was revealed Mastriano paid Gab $5,000 for consulting services, per campaign finance filings. The founder has repeatedly expressed contempt for Jews, who he says have no place in his right-wing movement.
In a series of posts last fall, Andrew Torba asserted that he was "building a parallel Christian society" because he is "fed up and done with the Judeo-Bolshevik one," using a Nazi-era term attributing the rise of communism to Judaism. He then shared a cartoon blaming Jews for killing Jesus. Torba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"This is the kind of organization that Doug Mastriano has associated with," Rabbi George Stern said at the press conference.
Indeed, it was after that series of posts — condemned by the Anti-Defamation League — that Mastriano, in February, joined the site, where he now has more than 38,000 followers. He then sat down for an interview with Torba and received his endorsement. Campaign finance records show he subsequently paid $5,000 to Gab for campaign consulting; new users of the site, HuffPost reported, now automatically follow Mastriano's account.
Associating with Gab is a particularly sensitive issue in Pennsylvania. In 2018, a user of the website — who posted that he couldn't "sit by and watch" as Jewish groups assisted with the resettlement of refugees — gunned down 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. While the site insists it has a zero-tolerance policy on calls for violence — Torba on Wednesday attributed such rhetoric, without evidence, to federal law enforcement operatives. Visitors are greeted with recommended posts that are exclusively from far-right extremists.
Antisemitism appears endemic on Gab, per an Insider review of the website. The most popular comment on a recent post from Mastriano, for example, states that "Jews are cancer." Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mastriano's Democratic opponent, is himself Jewish.
Democratic state Rep. Dan Frankel, whose district includes the Tree of Life synagogue, said his constituents cannot go a day without thinking of the violence that beset their community — with the rise in such hate crimes attributable "in no small part" to sites like Gab.
"Doug Mastriano is now paying the platform that helped hone the killer's murderous ideology because he believes that the hatred on those message boards will translate into an election victory for him," Frankel said.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta argued that Mastriano was the "most extreme and most unhinged" statewide candidate in Pennsylvania history, asserting that he could not be trusted to condemn bigotry while in the governor's office.
"When you're reaching out to people who you know harbor and promote antisemitic, racist, homophobic views, Doug Mastriano doesn't get to say, 'Well, that's not necessarily what I believe,'" Kenyatta, a Philadelphia Democrat, said Wednesday. "That is exactly what he believes — it is what his campaign is paying for And that is exactly the type of governor he would be."
It's not just Democrats who have criticized the Mastriano-Gab relationship. In a statement earlier this month, reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, urged the candidate to "end his association" with the platform.
"Jewish voters expect candidates to condemn antisemitism, whether it comes from the far left or the far right — and to shun those who espouse it," Brooks said.
Mastriano has not responded to requests for comment.
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