Pennsylvania state Senator Doug Mastriano, who is a far-right Republican running for Governor in the state, has been asked to remove an ad campaign he placed on Gab–a far-right social media network run by antisemitic CEO Andrew Torba.
Torba is reportedly a consultant for Mastriano, and his Pennsylvania-based extremist website is notorious for hosting antisemitic, racist, and anti-LGBT+ content.
The shooter who killed 11 Jewish people at the Tree of Life synagogue on Shabbat in Pittsburgh in 2018 was tied to Gab as a regular user of the platform.
Mastriano—who was endorsed by former Republican President Donald Trump—is a known promoter of conspiracy theories like QAnon.
The GOP Senator also attended Trump's rally leading to the US Capitol siege on January 6, 2021.
He was recently subpoenaed by the House January 6 Committee for his efforts to help overturn election results which favored Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Now, Mastriano has come under fire after paying $5,000 to Gab for "campaign consulting" services.
A report by the Huffington Post revealed Mastriano's payment was meant for gaining new Gab followers as "every new account currently being created on Gab automatically follows Mastriano.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, Torba claimed "many other candidates" were running ad campaigns on his platform but did not name any of the candidates.
In response to US media reports of Mastriano and Torba's financial and political relationship and their efforts to fortify the GOP Senator's foothold in the 2022 election, Torba defended his position, saying:
"This is the most important election of the 2022 midterms because Doug is an outspoken Christian."
"We are going to build a coalition of Christian nationalists, of Christians, of Christian candidates, at the state, local and federal levels and we're going to take this country back for the glory of God."
The Gab founder proclaimed:
"My policy is not to conduct interviews with reporters who aren't Christian or with outlets who aren't Christian and Doug has a very similar media strategy where he does not do interviews with these people."
"He does not talk to these people. He does not give press access to these people."
"These people are dishonest. They're liars. They're a den of vipers and they want to destroy you."
"My typical conversation with them when they email me is 'repent and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.' I take it as an opportunity to try and convert them."
Torba continued, stressing this was a "Christian movement" and Mastriano was "going to turn this state around for the glory of God."
"That is the mission here folks. We can't have this Populism Inc or this pseudo-conservativism," said the self-described Christian nationalist, adding, "What exactly have conservatives conserved? This isn't a big tent. This is a Christian movement. Full stop."
"The only way that we're going to win, the only way we're going to gain any ground in the culture, the government, in taking our towns, our cities, our states, our counties and our country back is by putting Jesus Christ first."
"It's just that simple. There's no other way."
You can listen to an excerpt of Torba's rant, here.
Both Democrats and Republicans have called on Mastriano, who currently has 38,000 followers on Gab, to stop promoting his campaign on the self-proclaimed "free speech" platform.
In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC)–a US political lobbying group founded in 1985 supporting Jewish Republicans–said:
“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."
“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.”
The RJC has previously spoke out against other candidates with extremist views, such as when far-right GOP Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar spoke at a conference held for White nationalists.
Despite earlier low expectations about his chances coming up in November, Mastriano has been closing the gap in the polls against his Jewish Democratic opponent Ben Shapiro, Pennsylvania's current Attorney General.
A day after a press conference in Pittsburgh attended by politicians and local leaders denouncing Mastriano's engagement on Gab, Shapiro wrote on social media:
“Here are the facts: Doug Mastriano is recruiting extremists on Gab, the same social media platform that empowered the Tree of Life killer to murder 11 Jewish people in a Pittsburgh synagogue."
“This is far from normal, and cannot be accepted as such. He is dangerous," he said.