Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, has come under fire from critics for his ties to a right-wing social media platform whose founder said there was no place 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,” according to state campaign finance records.
Democrats and Republicans 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, which was founded by Andrew Torba in 2016, have considered plans on the platform to disrupt President Joe Biden’s January 6, 2021 victory ascertainment. Torba said his goal was to foster a a “Christian nationalist” society, he called on the conservative movement to be “exclusively Christian” and he frequently espoused anti-Semitic views.
“Andrew Torba is one of the most toxic people in public life right now,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who describes Gab as a “safe haven for extremists” and ” conspiracy theorists,” MSNBC said on Tuesday. “Elected officials who indulge in this kind of rhetoric aren’t just flirting with fascism — they’re putting it at the forefront of their political argument.”
Mastriano’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon. Mastriano replied to criticism Thursday night on Twitter, saying Torba “doesn’t speak for me or my campaign.”
“I reject anti-Semitism in all its forms,” he wrote. “The recent slander by Democrats and the media are blatant attempts to distract Pennsylvanians from the suffering inflicted by Democratic policies.
“While extremist speech is an unfortunate but inevitable cost of living in a free society, extremist politics are not,” he added, criticizing his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Shapiro reply on Twitter referencing an interview Torba did in May with Mastriano, who said, “Thank God for what you’ve done.” Gab endorsed Mastriano ahead of the May 17 primary.
Torba fired back at criticism this week while seeking to define the modern right as a uniquely Christian enterprise.
“We have seen the fruits – or lack thereof – of our nation being run by atheist pagans, non-believers, Jews and false Christians in name only,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “If we want to build a Christian movement, it must be exclusively Christian and we cannot be afraid to say it out loud. We are all sinners saved by grace, but if you do not repent and believe in Jesus Christ, then you do does not share our biblical worldview and cannot participate in any significant position of authority in the movement.It is as simple as that.
In a video responding to a Monday segment by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Torba said of the right, “It’s a Christian movement — period.”
“So no, we don’t want atheist people,” he said. “We don’t want Jewish people. So why is it hard to understand? They’re so angry that I said that, aren’t they? They’re so angry that I said we don’t “We don’t want people who aren’t Christians. In a Christian movement. Why is it complicated? Why is it so controversial?”
“We don’t want Jewish people,” he later said in the 24-minute video. “It’s an explicitly Christian movement because it’s an explicitly Christian country. Now, we’re not saying we’re going to deport all these people. Remember, you’re free to stay here, aren’t you? You’re not going to be forced to convert or anything like that, but you’re going to enjoy… the fruits of living in a Christian society under Christian laws.
Torba said his goal was “to try a Christian nationalist movement across the whole 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 said about Christian nationalism as an explicitly Christian movement,” he said in the statement. “It should be obvious from 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 would not be Christian nationalism.
“If you are ethnically Jewish and call Jesus your Savior, then you are my brother or my sister,” he added. “It’s not a racial issue.”
Mastriano’s connection to Gab was highlighted by left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters, which first uncovered the $5,000 payment. Torba said he was not a consultant for Mastriano’s campaign, simply that Mastriano paid for advertising on the site. HuffPost reported shortly after Media Matters broke the news that newly created accounts on Gab automatically follow Mastriano — one of seven accounts all new users were initially signed up to follow.
Mastriano’s primary victory this year shocked part of the Republican establishment in Pennsylvania, which failed in a last-ditch effort to unite around another contender. His campaign message weaved together Christian nationalism, electoral denial and rejection of Covid mitigation policies.
Leading efforts to nullify the 2020 election in his state, Mastriano was outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and was intimately involved in the effort to summon fake voter rolls in the hope to prevent Biden from taking office.
In his victory speech in May, Mastriano condemned what he saw as “sectarianism” against Christians, saying his supporters were “besieged” by opponents and members of the media who “don’t like anti-Christian groups.” ‘between us who believe certain things, and they paint us’. in these awful descriptions.”
Last week, lawmakers in Shapiro and Pittsburgh, who represent the area around the Tree of Life Synagogue, condemned Mastriano’s ties to Gab.
Speaking to NBC News, Shapiro, who is Jewish, said Mastriano’s use of Gab should be looked at not through the lens of religion, but of extremism.
“The fact that he even goes to this website, let alone pay to recruit supporters and volunteers there, shows how extreme and dangerous he is,” Shapiro said.
Mastriano is “someone who I believe does not reflect where most good people of faith are in this Commonwealth,” Shapiro added, describing himself as “deeply religious.” “His extremism is really dangerous.”
Additionally, 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 American Jews as a cesspool of fanaticism and anti-Semitism. .”
In a video reported by The Jerusalem Post this week, Torba said his “policy is not to conduct interviews with journalists who are not Christians or with media outlets that are not Christians, and Doug has a media strategy very similar where he doesn’t do interviews with these people.”
He also lamented the “establishment” which he says promotes conservative Jewish commentators like Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro.
“These people are not conservative,” he said. “They are not Christians. They do not share our values. They have reversed our values as Christians. So don’t fall into the trap of Populism Inc., don’t fall into the trap of this pseudo-conservatism, a no -meaning of big tent.”
Mastriano isn’t the only contestant to have paid to advertise on Gab.
As Torba noted in his video on Wednesday, Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate candidate from Georgia, ran ads on his platform. Representatives Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., also have.
Campaign finance records show Greene has spent more than $36,000 on Gab this cycle. On Wednesday, she posted a shirt on Instagram for followers to buy.
He said: “Proud Christian nationalist”.