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Doug Mastriano breaks with controversial social media site Gab and its founder

Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, is trying to put some distance between himself and Gab after weeks of controversy.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, shown speaking during the ''Medical Freedom Rally'' on the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Nov. 9, 2021.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, shown speaking during the ''Medical Freedom Rally'' on the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Nov. 9, 2021.Read morePaul Weaver / MCT

Some political partnerships blaze brightly and then burn out. Just ask Doug Mastriano and Gab, the controversial social media platform known for its antisemitic postings.

Mastriano, a state senator from Franklin County and the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, on Thursday tried to put some distance between himself and Gab founder Andrew Torba, announcing on Twitter that Torba does not speak for his campaign.

“I reject antisemitism in any form,” Mastriano said, blaming the controversy on his political foes and media reports about it. “Recent smears by the Democrats and the media are blatant attempts to distract Pennsylvanians from suffering inflicted by Democrat policies.”

Mastriano, who paid Gab for consulting in April and had been posting on the site as of this week, added that “extremist speech is an unfortunate but inevitable cost of living in a free society.”

Mastriano’s Gab account appeared to have been deleted on Thursday.

Torba, in a post on Gab Thursday, said he did not work for Mastriano’s campaign and stood by the Christian nationalist rhetoric that helped spur the controversy.

“The campaign paid Gab as a business for advertising during the primary,” he wrote. “The campaign posts on Gab, as do 50+ other campaigns from around the country.”

Mastriano and Torba did not respond to requests for comment about why Mastriano’s Gab account is no longer active.

Mastriano paid Gab $5,000 for consulting services in April, and HuffPost reported earlier this month that people who signed up for accounts on the platform were automatically assigned as followers for his account.

His posts were soon filled with comments from other Gab users spouting Christian nationalist and antisemitic remarks, some aimed at state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, who is Jewish.

Shapiro, in an MSNBC interview after the controversy went public, said Mastriano was trying to recruit antisemitic posters to his campaign.

“He’s making them part of what he sees as a vision for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said. “He is dangerous. He is extreme, and he must be defeated.”

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

Mastriano faced blistering, bipartisan criticism for the relationship.

The national Republican Jewish Coalition last week told Mastriano to leave Gab, declaring “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.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told MSNBC this week Gab is a “cesspool of antisemitism and racism” and cast Mastriano as part of that crowd.

“Mastriano’s politics literally teeter on the edge of the kind of extremism that has never been this close to a statehouse let alone to any credible elected office,” he said.

Torba seemed to revel in the attention, sending Gab users long emails about critical media reports and “our nation being led by Godless pagans, nonbelievers, Jews, and fake Christians-in-name-only.”