Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, has come under fire from critics for ties to a right-wing social media platform whose founder has said there is no room for Jews, atheists and others in the conservative movement.
Mastriano, a state senator backed by former President Donald Trump, paid Gab $5,000 in April for “advertising advice,” state campaign finance data showed.
Democrats and Republicans alike have criticized Mastriano for his association with Gab, the social media platform on which a gunman who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 posted his anti-Semitic rants.
Some users of Gab, founded by Andrew Torba in 2016, considered plans on the platform to disrupt the determination of President Joe Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021. Torba has said his goal is to promote a “Christian-nationalist” society, he has called for the conservative movement to be “exclusively Christian”, and he often espouses anti-Semitic views.
“Andrew Torba is one of the most toxic people in public life right now,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, which describes Gab as a “haven for extremists” and “conspiracy theorists,” said Tuesday on MSNBC. “Elected officials who engage in this kind of rhetoric aren’t just flirting with fascism — they’re bringing it to the forefront of their political argument.”
Mastriano’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday afternoon. Mastiano responded to the criticism Thursday night on Twitter, saying Torba “doesn’t speak for me or my campaign.”
“I reject anti-Semitism in any form,” he wrote. “Recent smears by the Democrats and the media are blatant attempts to distract Pennsylvanians from the suffering caused by Democrat policies.
“While extremist statements are an unfortunate but inevitable cost of living in a free society, extremist policies are not,” he added, while criticizing his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Torba has hit back at critics this week as he tried to define the modern right as an exclusively Christian enterprise.
“We’ve seen the fruits — or lack thereof — of our nation being led by wicked pagans, infidels, Jews and fake Christians in name only,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “If we’re going to build a Christian movement, it must be exclusively Christian and we can’t be afraid to say that out loud. We are all sinners saved by grace, but if you don’t repent and believe in Jesus Christ, then you will.” do not share our Biblical worldview and cannot participate in a meaningful position of authority in the movement. It’s that simple.”
In a video that reacts to an excerpt Monday from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Torba said of the right: “This is a Christian movement – period.”
“So no, we don’t want people who are atheists,” he said. “We don’t want people who are Jewish. So why is that hard to understand? They’re so mad that I said this, right? They’re so mad that I said we don’t want people who aren’t Christian in a Christian movement. Why is that complicated, why is that so controversial?”
“We don’t want people who are Jewish,” he said later in the 24-minute video. “This is an explicitly Christian movement because this is an explicitly Christian country. Now, we’re not saying we’re going to deport all these people. Remember, you’re free to stay here, right? You’re not going to be forced to convert or something like that, but you’re going to enjoy… the fruits of living in a Christian society under Christian laws.”
Torba said his goal is “to try a Christian nationalist movement around the world”. In a separate videohe responded to Greenblatt’s MSNBC interview by telling Jews that “we’re not going to listen to 2%,” adding, “You represent 2% of the country, okay?”
Reached for comment, Torba pointed to: a statement about Gab in which he said his words were not representative of Mastriano’s campaign.
“I stand by everything I’ve said about Christian nationalism as a movement that is explicitly Christian,” he said. he said in the statement. “This should be obvious by the name. Others are certainly welcome to support the movement and enjoy the fruits of Christian leadership and culture, but we need candidates, leaders, thinkers, influencers, culture warriors and builders who believe in and Follow Jesus Christ Otherwise it wouldn’t be Christian nationalism.
“If you’re ethnically Jewish and call Jesus your Saviour, then you’re my brother or sister,” he added. “This is not a racial issue.”
Mastriano’s connection to Gab was emphasized by the left-wing media watchdog Media Matters, who first discovered the $5,000 payment. Torba has said that he is not an advisor to Mastriano’s campaign, only that Mastriano paid for ads on the site. HuffPost reported shortly after Media Matters revealed that newly created accounts on Gab automatically followed Mastriano – one of seven accounts that all new users initially signed up for.
Mastriano’s primary win this year shocked a section of the Republican establishment in Pennsylvania, which failed in a last-ditch effort to coalesce around another contender. His campaign message intertwined christian nationalismelection denial and a rejection of the Covid containment policy.
Mastriano led the effort to reverse the 2020 elections in his state. He was outside the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, and was heavily involved in the effort to convene fake voter lists in the hopes of deterring Biden from coming to power.
In his victory speech in May, Mastriano condemned what he saw as “intolerance” against Christians, saying that his supporters were “besieged” by opponents and members of the media who “don’t like groups of us who believe certain things, and paint them us in these terrible descriptions.”
Last weekConvicted Shapiro and Pittsburgh lawmakers representing the area around the Tree of Life synagogue representing Mastriano’s ties to Gab.
Speaking to NBC News, Shapiro, who is Jewish, said Mastriano’s use of Gab should not be viewed through the lens of religion, but of extremism.
“The fact that he even goes on that website, let alone pays to recruit supporters and volunteers there, shows how extreme and dangerous he is,” Shapiro said.
Mastriano is “someone who I don’t think reflects where most of the good faith people are in this commonwealth,” Shapiro added, describing himself as “deeply religious.” “His extremism is really dangerous.”
In addition, Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told The Philadelphia Inquirer last week“We urge Doug Mastriano to end his association with Gab, a social network rightly viewed by Jewish Americans as a cesspool of bigotry and anti-Semitism.”
In a video The Jerusalem Post reported this week aboutTorba said his “policy is not to interview journalists who are not Christian or to non-Christian media, and Doug has a very similar media strategy of not doing interviews with these people.”
He also deplored “the establishment” which he believes is promoting Jewish conservative commentators such as Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro.
“These people are not conservative,” he said. “They’re not Christian. They don’t share our values. They’ve inverted our values as Christians. So don’t fall for the bait of Populism Inc., don’t fall for the bait of this pseudo-conservatism, big tent nonsense.”
Mastriano is not the only candidate who paid to advertise on Gab.
As Torba noted in his video Wednesday, Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee for the Senate in Georgia, ran ads on its platform. Reps Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., have too.
It said, “Proud Christian Nationalist.”