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Candidate for PA Governor Under Fire Over Links to GAB Support

The Republican candidate for the post of Pennsylvania’s governor was under fire on Friday over his ties to the founder of a far-right social media platform who regularly engages in antisemitic rhetoric.

Doug Mastriano has been the target of trenchant criticism in recent days over his links to Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, a platform widely used by far-right activists. The site is notorious in Pennsylvania for having been used by Robert Bowers, the neo-Nazi gunman who murdered 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in Oct. 2018 in the worst antisemitic atrocity in the history of American Jews. In the minutes prior to the massacre, Bowers posted on Gab, declaring: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Mastriano has had a formal relationship with Torba and Gab since at least April, when Mastriano’s campaign paid Gab $5,000 for “consulting” services, according to state records first published by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning watchdog organization that has documented the relationship between the two men.

Mastriano also participated in an interview conducted by Torba in which he lavishly praised the Gab founder, telling him, “Thank God for what you’ve done.”

For his part, Torba insinuated that Mastriano risked being labeled an antisemite over the interview. “You may even get called a name for doing this interview with me, so brace yourself with that,” he told Mastriano.

Torba was defiant in his response to the criticism of Gab’s racist and antisemitic output.”We’re not bending the knee to the 2 percent anymore,” he said on Thursday, referring to the general estimate of the Jewish population in the United States. “We’re not taking it anymore, bud. We are taking back our culture. We’re taking back our country. We’re taking back our government. So, deal with it.”

Mastriano distanced himself from Torba on Thursday, saying that Torba “doesn’t speak for me or my campaign.”

“I reject antisemitism in any form,” he added.

Mastriano’s Democratic opponent is a Jewish candidate, Josh Shapiro. Polling shows Shapiro with a comfortable lead of more than 11 points over Mastriano as the Nov. 8 ballot approaches.

Matt Brooks — executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) — meanwhile called on Mastriano to completely sever his links with Torba.

“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,” Brooks said in a statement. “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.”