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A Jewish Republican group is denouncing Doug Mastriano’s links to an extremist social-media site

The Republican Jewish Coalition lamented Mastriano's "message of exclusion,” as the founder of Gab said: “This isn’t a big tent. This is a Christian movement. Full stop.”

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, seen here campaigning before the May primary, is now making his pitch on Gab, a website known for attracting right-wing extremists. Jewish leaders from both parties are concerned.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, seen here campaigning before the May primary, is now making his pitch on Gab, a website known for attracting right-wing extremists. Jewish leaders from both parties are concerned.Read moreKeith Srakocic / AP

Doug Mastriano is facing blistering criticism from Jewish leaders — both Democrats and Republicans — following the disclosure that he’s using Gab, a social-media site favored by extremists and antisemites, to advertise his Republican campaign for governor.

The head of the national Republican Jewish Coalition on Thursday called on Mastriano to leave Gab, where he has 38,000 followers and has been posting frequently. Hours later state and local Democrats spoke out in Pittsburgh against Mastriano’s controversial strategy. A Pennsylvania-based coalition of Jewish Democrats also criticized his affiliation with the site.

“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,” said Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director. “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.”

Gab embraces right-wing extremists and adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, among other fringe figures who’ve been banned from other sites. In 2018, one of its users allegedly killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He was known for posting antisemitic screeds on Gab. New users on the social-media site now automatically follow Mastriano.

On Wednesday, Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania called on the Republican Jewish Coalition to denounce Mastriano’s association with Gab — or “remove ‘Jewish’ from its name.”

In his statement Thursday, Brooks implied that Mastriano, a state senator from Franklin County, is making a political miscalculation by alienating potential voters.

“Instead of welcoming all Pennsylvanians who have concerns about Josh Shapiro’s big government agenda, Doug Mastriano’s campaign unfortunately seems intent on sending a message of exclusion,” Brooks said.

In April, Mastriano’s campaign paid Gab $5,000 for what was described in campaign-finance reports as “consulting” services. Gab’s founder, Andrew Torba, has said the payment was for Mastriano to advertise on the platform.

» READ MORE: Founder of extremist social-media site working with Doug Mastriano has a message for news media: ‘Repent now’

Torba, in a video posted last weekend, described Mastriano’s campaign as part of a Christian nationalist movement aimed at taking control of all levels of government, from municipal to federal.

“This isn’t a big tent. This is a Christian movement. Full stop,” Torba said in the video.

Mastriano, a retired Army colonel, has rejected the Christian nationalist label, but has made his faith a central tenet of his candidacy. At a far-right Christian gathering in April, he told the crowd: “We have the power of God with us. We have Jesus Christ that we’re serving here. He’s guiding and directing our steps.”

Torba has endorsed Mastriano, and interviewed him before the May primary. In the interview, Mastriano praised Torba, saying: “Thank God for what you’ve done.”

In Pittsburgh, elected officials who are backing state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, gathered for a press conference Thursday to address the issue.

Jay Costa, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, called it a “horrendous arrangement” in which Mastriano appears to be seeking to forge deeper connections with white supremacists and antisemites.

“This gentleman who wants to be our governor is soliciting the support of individuals who really have no place in our government,” Costa said.

» READ MORE: ‘We have the power of God’: Doug Mastriano embodies a Christian nationalist movement

State Rep. Dan Frankel, a Democrat representing Allegheny County, said he was there to speak out against the “white nationalist vision that unifies Gab users” before it gains a larger foothold in mainstream politics.

“We cannot allow that to happen,” Frankel said, noting a historic increase in hate crimes. “We must call it out when we see, even if it’s coming from a state senator and a candidate for governor.”

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The campaign does not field questions from most media organizations.

Torba, who on Gab has reposted content featuring Jewish stereotypes and conspiracy theories, said in his most recent video about the Mastriano campaign that the criticism the candidate is facing is a sign that his campaign for governor is succeeding.

“We are going to take back this country for the glory of God,” Torba said. “This is a Christian — an explicitly Christian — movement, because this is an explicitly Christian country.”