Jewish Groups Call on Pennsylvania GOP Candidate to Cut Ties With Far-right Platform Gab

Gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who previously compared gun control reform to Nazi policy and shared an image saying legal abortion is worse than the Holocaust, paid Gab $5,000 for ‘consulting services’ and frequently praised its founder

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
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Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania, speaking at an event in Harrisburg, Pa, earlier this month.
Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania, speaking at an event in Harrisburg, Pa, earlier this month.Credit: Marc Levy/AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON – The Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania is being pressured by Jewish groups and leaders, including from within his own party, to cease ties with Gab, a social media platform known as a haven for far-right extremists and white supremacists.

Doug Mastriano is under fire not just for his ties to the social media platform, but also for other links to extremists with a record of antisemitic statements.

The Pennsylvania state representative is best-known for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Mastriano was present in Washington on Jan. 6 to participate in the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Congress.

He has previously compared gun control reform to 1930s Nazi policy, and shared an image saying that legal abortion was worse than the Holocaust.

His rival in the November 8 gubernatorial election is Josh Shapiro, a Jewish Democrat and currently the state’s attorney general. The two are locked in a competitive race, according to the latest polling.

The Republican candidate, a retired army colonel, paid Gab $5,000 for “consulting services” in April, which was first reported in MediaMatters. Subsequent reporting from HuffPost indicated that those payments appeared to be tied to new followers. “Thank God for what you’ve done,” Mastriano told Gab founder and CEO Andrew Torba prior to his victory in the GOP primary in May.

Shapiro called his Republican opponent dangerous. “He is so extreme, he is so beyond the pale that he would go and pay for supporters of his campaign and recruit volunteers on the site that was used by the Tree of Life killer – the deadliest attack on the Jewish people in the United States’ history,” he said, referring to the October 2018 mass shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

“This site is a haven for white supremacy, and this is where Doug Mastriano believes he needs to go for support for recruits to his campaign. We cannot allow this to become normal political practice,” continued the Democratic nominee. “This is not normal. It’s not normal that Mastriano was on that site, and it’s not normal that he trades in this direct, blatant antisemitism and racism.”

Torba created Gab in August 2016 to counter what he described as censorship on other social media sites. “I didn’t set out to build a ‘conservative social network’ by any means. But I felt that it was time for a conservative leader to step up and to provide a forum where anybody can come and speak freely without fear of censorship,” he told The Washington Post in 2016. “Every major communication outlet, every major social network, is run, owned, controlled and operated by progressive leaders, progressive workers in Silicon Valley.”

Google first banned Gab from the Android app store in 2017 following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Several tech companies, including domain name provider GoDaddy and payment companies PayPal and Stripe, later dropped Gab after it emerged that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter used the service to post antisemitic posts on the morning of the attack.

Torba, for his part, has reposted antisemitic conspiracy theories concerning Jewish control of the government, “white genocide” and praise for offering “differing opinions” on the Holocaust.

On Monday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an editorial calling Mastriano’s “heinous” association with Gab “a slap in the face to Jewish communities around Pennsylvania.”

People demonstrating against Doug Mastriano in Camp Hill, Pa, in mid-July.Credit: SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS

This came days after the head of the Republican Jewish Coalition urged Mastriano to cut ties 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,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks (a Pennsylvania native) told the Philadelphia Inquirer last week. “We strongly urge Doug Mastriano to end his association with Gab, a social network rightly seen by Jewish Americans as a cesspool of bigotry and antisemitism,” he added.

Brooks’ call follows Democratic state lawmakers directly implicating the platform for inspiring the Tree of Life massacre that left 11 worshippers dead.

“Doug Mastriano is mining this racist, antisemitic haven for votes,” said Democratic State Rep. Dan Frankel while speaking alongside local Jewish leaders outside Pittsburgh’s City-County building last Thursday.

“We need to recognize that this is certainly something that this gentleman has done purposefully, with a very specific purpose of trying to reach out to a class of folks, groups of individuals who have nothing but hate in their heart,” added Democratic State Sen. Jay Costa. “White supremacy, antisemitic language – we know that’s what’s at stake here.”

Attorney Jeffrey Letwin, a former chairman of the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh, decried Mastriano’s “support for dangerous extremism and antisemitism – the kind of antisemitism and hatred that led to the worst antisemitic attack in American history in Pittsburgh.”

A primary night gathering in Chambersburg, Pa., in May for State Sen. Doug Mastriano.Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Speaking to MediaMatters last week, Torba doubled down on previous comments that Jewish conservatives are “not welcome in our movement” unless they renounce their Jewish faith.

“We don’t want people who are atheists. We don’t want people who are Jewish. We don’t want people who are, you know, nonbelievers, agnostic, whatever. This is an explicitly Christian movement because this is an explicitly Christian country,” Torba said. “Ben Shapiro is not welcome in the movement unless he repents and accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior.”

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