Pennsylvania’s Republican Candidate for Governor: ‘Far-right Platform Doesn’t Speak for My Campaign’

Doug Mastriano, who is running for governor in Pennsylvania, denied any affiliation with the far-right social media platform Gab and blamed Democrats and the media for trying to distract voters

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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State Senator and Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania Doug Mastriano speaking at a primary night election gathering in May.
State Senator and Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania Doug Mastriano speaking at a primary night election gathering in May.Credit: Carolyn Kaster /AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON — Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, on Thursday denied that Gab, a social media platform known as a haven for far-right extremists and white supremacists, was formally affiliated with his campaign.

“[Gab founder and CEO] Andrew Torba doesn’t speak for me or my campaign. I reject antisemitism in any form,” Mastriano said amid pressure from Jewish groups and leaders (including from within his own party) to cease ties with Gab. The gubernatorial candidate’s statement, however, neither acknowledged Torba’s antisemitism nor did he vow to cut ties with him.

The Republican candidate, a retired army colonel, had 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 Torba prior to his victory in the GOP primary in May. Mastriano’s Thursday statement does not address the payments or the auto-follows for new accounts.

“I want to make very clear that I do not work for the Mastriano campaign. I am not their consultant. My words are my own. My ideas are my own. They are not representative of Doug,” Torba posted on Gab.

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.

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, adding “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.”

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.

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