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Mastriano touts endorsement from rabbi who promoted QAnon conspiracy, ‘reptilian’ Hitler theory

The ultraorthodox rabbi said Mastriano's campaign manager had asked him to put his endorsement in writing after he contacted them to offer his support.

Campaign items for Pa. State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican nominee for governor, sit outside of Gatsby's Bar & Grill where he spoke to supporters in Aston, Pa. on Aug. 24.
Campaign items for Pa. State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican nominee for governor, sit outside of Gatsby's Bar & Grill where he spoke to supporters in Aston, Pa. on Aug. 24.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

The headline looked promising for Doug Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign, and the Republican state senator promptly shared it Thursday morning with his nearly 200,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook.

“Rabbi Endorses Mastriano as Shapiro Calls Him Antisemitic in Pennsylvania Gov. Race,” the far-right Epoch Times proclaimed, referring to the Democratic nominee, Josh Shapiro.

Mastriano, a retired Army colonel from south-central Pennsylvania, has been dogged by accusations of antisemitism this summer after he paid $5,000 to Gab, a social media site frequented by extremists and antisemites, in an effort to reach new voters. The site’s founder, Andrew Torba, has described Mastriano’s campaign as part of an “explicitly Christian” nationalist movement that should exclude followers of other faiths.

Jewish groups, both Democratic and Republican, reacted angrily to news reports about the GOP candidate’s strategy and Mastriano eventually cut ties with Torba and Gab. He said he “rejects antisemitism in any form.”

More recently, Mastriano has been repeating old tropes about George Soros on the campaign trail, claiming that Soros, who contributed to Shapiro in 2016 and 2020, had worked for the Nazis during World War II.

“Disgusting,” Mastriano said at a Delaware County bar and restaurant last week — although the crowd fell silent and seemed mostly confused.

On Thursday, Mastriano touted the endorsement of Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski by sharing the article from the Epoch Times, a conservative publication affiliated with members of the controversial Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong.

In it, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi defended Mastriano.

“While the Democrats have the chutzpah to claim that those of us from the Party of Lincoln are somehow racist, they do not look at the racist tenants of their own party, including abortion and gun control, both of which cause undue and disproportionate harm to people of color, and are historically rooted in openly racist ideologies,” the rabbi said.

Kolakowski identified himself to the publication as the leader of a Hasidic Jewish ministry in northeast Pennsylvania.

What the Epoch Times story did not mention is hundreds of internet posts and videos in which the 38-year-old rabbi shares unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election, expresses sympathy for Jan. 6 insurrectionists, and speaks favorably of the QAnon movement — a conspiracy theory that holds that former President Donald Trump and his allies are engaged in a secret war with pedophilic, blood-drinking satanists.

“Whether they are right or wrong about their theories, the whole point of QAnon is to fight child abuse,” Kolakowski wrote earlier this year. “Why does the left hate a group that fights child abuse?”

On YouTube, Kolakowski has espoused more outlandish ideas, including a theory that Adolf Hitler and other malevolent world leaders are part lizard.

“There’s a reason why he never took off his boots,” the rabbi says in one video of the Nazi dictator. “[It] was to hide the fact that his feet were reptilian in nature because he came from this nonhuman race, demonic race. He was a hybrid.”

Kolakowski has previously courted controversy, appearing in a 2011 viral video filmed inside his home in which Orthodox worshipers are seen passing around an AK-47 assault-style rifle during prayers. Later, Kolakowski rose to the defense of conservative, far-right cartoonist Ben Garrison after the Anti-Defamation League criticized some of his cartoons as antisemitic.

“There was no reference to the Torah faith or religion in Mr. Garrison’s cartoon,” Kolakowski wrote. “I believe that George Soros is an enemy to the basic fundamental ideas of America and he is a very dangerous individual.”

Kolakowski repeatedly asserts that tropes about prominent Jews endeavoring to secretly dominate global finance, politics, or the media are not antisemitic because secular Jews should not be considered Jewish — or, sometimes, even fully human. The rabbi says certain Jewish mystical texts support ideas espoused by conspiracy theorists like David Icke, who holds that the world is controlled by reptilian shape-shifters.

In a phone interview Thursday, Kolakowski said he felt Mastriano was being “unfairly maligned” as antisemitic. He said he reached out to Mastriano’s campaign, and “the campaign manager asked me to write something” — the statements that later appeared in the Epoch Times.

“I heard the slander that was made against him claiming he was antisemitic and I wanted to speak up personally,” Kolakowski said. He said he stood by his online statements about QAnon, the Jan. 6 riot, and other issues.

“I certainly don’t believe it was an insurrection,” he said. “I think a lot of people share that view.”

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. It has generally ignored such requests from mainstream media outlets.

Mastriano rose to prominence by railing against coronavirus safety measures in 2020, and later, promoting unfounded claims of fraud in that November’s presidential election. He was present in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, and rented buses so that others could attend.

Although Mastriano now says he rejects the QAnon movement, in 2018 he repeatedly shared tweets featuring pro-QAnon hashtags. Earlier this year, he spoke at an event promoting QAnon and 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Recently, Mastriano has sought to publicly moderate some of his beliefs. He has recently spoken less about his support for a ban on abortion, which this spring he described as his “number one issue.”

Supporters like Kolakowski, meanwhile, have shown little moderation.

This year, the rabbi asserted that the Capitol insurrection was caused by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordering Capitol Police to “push innocent people into that building in order to make the president’s supporters look bad.”

On Twitter, the rabbi celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which he described as “an excuse to lynch blacks in the womb.”