Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidate Doug Mastriano— Mired in an Anti-Semitic Swamp July 31, 2022
In my previous blogpost, I wrote about wacky extremist Trump-endorsed Dan Cox, the winner of the Maryland GOP 2022 gubernatorial primary. Compared to another Trump-backed 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee, Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano, Cox looks rather “sane.” Let’s focus on this Keystone race contest, one marred by Mastriano’s ties to anti-Semitic swamp bigots.
On May 17, 2022, in PA’s GOP gubernatorial primary, state senator Doug Mastriano, endorsed by Demagogue Donald, handily won a five-person contest. He easily defeated his closest Republican rival, Lou Barletta by a 23.5% margin, 43.8%- 20.3% (npr.org., AP, 5/17/22, updated, 6/10/22, Mathias, 5/17/22, huffpost.com). Mastriano has a strong far right extremist record. He will face Democratic nominee, PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the 11/2022 general election (npr.org, 5/17/22). Atty. General Shapiro immediately labeled Mastriano as a “dangerous extremist (cnn.com, Collinson, 5/19/22).” Like Trump, Mastriano is an “election denier.” Mastriano is on record saying that Biden’s victory in the 2020 election was “compromised” and that the state legislature had the authority to appoint a new slate of electors in defiance of the PA voters. Biden carried PA by a 1.2% margin with 80,555 votes and his win there gave him his 2020 election victory (See politico.com, 1/06/21). Mastriano attempted to conduct a partisan review of the PA 2020 election results (cnn.com, Bradner, Merica, & King, 5/18/22). If elected governor, Mastriano, under PA law, would have the authority to appoint a secretary of state who would run that state’s election in 2024 (cnn.com, Collinson, 5/19/22). Anyone who trusts the nominee a Governor Mastriano would appoint to run fair presidential and down-ballot elections is living in an “alternate universe.”
Mastriano was in D.C. on January 6, 2021 for Trump’ infamous “Stop the Steal” rally. That event resulted in several deaths, numerous injuries, and an attempted coup by Trump’s deranged supporters to seize the U.S. Capitol to stop the electoral certification of Biden’s election. Mastriano claims he did nothing illegal. However, videos show state senator Mastriano marching alongside protestors past an abandoned police barricade near the U.S. Capitol. He has been subpoenaed by the 1/06 U.S. House Committee investigating this attack (Dunklau, npr.com, 5/17/22). In his successful gubernatorial primary, Mastriano stood for expanding gun rights and outlawing abortion with no exceptions, including for the life of the mother (Orso, inquirer.com). And Mastriano held this anti-choice view even before the Supreme Court repealed Roe in its 6/2022 Dobbs opinion. Like MD’s Dan Cox, Mastriano attended a far-right Christian conference in Gettysburg, PA that dabbled in 9/11 conspiracies, pushed QAnon drivel, called vaccines “genocide,” and even said Hitler “faked his death (Seidman, 4/27/22, inquirer.com).” Jewish groups criticized him for these comments (inquirer.com, 5/04/22). GOP strategist Mike Madrid and other analysts called Mastriano’s combination of religion and politics part of the Christian nationalist movement. The Christian nationalist movement merges “evangelical Christianity, white identity, and American nationalism (politico.com, 6/10/22).”
And this white identity /American nationalism easily entangles itself with one of the oldest and virulent hatreds, anti-Semitism. Such is the case in Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign. In early 7/2022, liberal Media Matters for America uncovered the news that a state filing had shown that Mastriano’s campaign had paid Gab, a far-right social media platform, $5, 000 for “consulting.” Gab attracts numerous white supremacists and anti-Semites who have been banned from other platforms. Gab was used to post antisemitic attacks by the man accused of massacring 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 10/2018 (nytimes.com, Gabriel, T., 7/27/22). Mastriano initially ignored criticism of his association with Gab or its founder. Gab’s founder and chief executive Andrew Torba has no compunction about using anti-Jewish tropes. Torba declared, “We’re not bending the knee to the 2 percent anymore.” The 2% figure refers to the rough percentage of Jews in the U.S. (nytimes.com, Gabriel). Torba is a strong supporter of Christian nationalism, the false view that America was founded to advance Christians and Biblical values. Remember, many of the Founding Fathers were secularists and Deists who rejected the Christian worldview. They believed that God was the force that created nature and its physical laws. Torba could care less about history or the truth. He additionally stated, “We’re taking back our country. We’re taking back our government so deal with it.” Translation: “We’re taking back our country from those “J oo s,” blacks, and fellow liberal travelers.” ADL, Anti-Defamation League chief Executive Jonathan Greenblatt, who heads a group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and backing good inter-group relations, rightly stated, “Andrew Torba is one of the most toxic people in public life right now. Elected officials who engage in this kind of rhetoric aren’t just flirting with fascism, they are bringing it to the forefront of their political argument (Gabriel, nytimes.com, 7/27/22).”
Shortly after the $5,000 payment from the Mastriano campaign in 4/2022, Torba interviewed Mastriano on his site. Mastriano then told Torba, “Thank God for what you’ve done (nytimes.com, Gabriel.” Gab, based in PA, endorsed Mastriano in the 2022 primary. According to the Huffington Post, Mastriano may be paying Gab to increase his following on that site. New Gab users appear to be automatically assigned as followers of Mastriano (nytimes.com, Gabriel).
Gab’s Torba has doubled down/tripled down on his anti-Semitism. The Jerusalem Post quoted Torba as saying, “My policy is not to conduct interviews with reporters who aren’t Christian or with outlets who aren’t Christian and Doug (Mastriano) 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.” Mastriano did not respond to a request sent to his campaign. When Torba was asked about the details of his consulting plans with Mastriano, he responded in an email, “I only speak to Christian news outlets (nytimes.com, Gabriel, 7/27/22).” In another comment, Torba stated, “I don’t want people who are Jewish. This is an explicitly Christian country (jta.org , Lapin, 7/29/22).” Message to Torba and his buddy Mastriano—“If it talks like a duck, quacks like one, and acts like one, it is a duck,” an anti-Semitic one in this case.
GOP and Democratic Jewish leaders have called for candidate Mastriano to leave Gab. Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “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 (nytimes.com, Gabriel,7/27/22).”
After the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, Josh Shapiro began an investigation of Gab, but eventually dropped it. Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Shapiro who is Jewish appealed to donors in a tweet to “stop” Mastriano. Shapiro stated Mastriano “is paying Gab—the same platform that empowered the Tree of Life killer—thousands of dollars to recruit antisemites and white supremacists to his campaign (nytimes.com, Gabriel, 7/27/22). “
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Shapiro has served as PA’s Attorney General since 2017. He has won re-election twice as PA Atty. General. He previously served in the PA House of Representatives and as chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners (“The Hill,” Axelrod, 5/17/2022). Progressive Shapiro stands for protecting voting rights, reproductive rights, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour (penncapital-star.com, Caruso, 10/11/21).
After a huge public outcry and reporting by CNN and the New York Times about Mastriano’s anti-Semitic ties, he was finally forced to comment on this matter. Mastriano’s statement renounced anti-Semitism and claimed that Torba didn’t speak for him. However, this weak statement by Mastriano did not concede that Torba is an anti-Semite and Mastriano did not promise to cut off ties with him (nymag.com/intelligencer, 7/2022).
The U.S., fortunately, has never been plagued with the virulent anti-Semitism that infected Europe. However, in the 1930’s, there was an increase of anti-Semitism in this country led by home-grown demagogues, isolationists, and Nazi propagandists. During that period and until after WWII, businesses, universities, clubs, and professions often imposed strict quotas limiting the number of Jews who could join them or excluded them entirely. Jews were for a time barred from buying homes in certain neighborhoods. After the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of WWII, Americans saw where anti-Semitism could lead. In a reaction to the Holocaust, the overwhelming majority of Americans radically turned away from practicing this form of bigotry or publicly voicing anti-Jewish comments (See Silberman, “A Certain People,” 1985). Anti-Semitism was no longer “respectable.” Bigots pushing this sick attitude had to hide their opinions. However, Demagogue Donald encouraged white supremacists, including anti-Semitic bigots to join his cause. He called them “very fine people” after the fatal Charlottesville, VA race riot. As a result, some of these wackos came out of their “swamps and caves.” Anti-Semitism is still not, fortunately, “mainstream” behavior. It must never be allowed to become that again. Mastriano’s hanging around and friendly dealing with arch-bigot Torba must completely disqualify him from winning the PA governorship or any other political post.