In a July 21 press conference organized by the Shapiro for Governor campaign, local politicians spoke out against Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate and State Sen. Doug Mastriano campaign’s use of the social media site Gab and antisemitic comments left by users.
It was recently revealed in campaign finance reports that Mastriano and his campaign paid Gab $5,000 for consulting fees. Since those fees were paid, according to a July 14 Huffington Post story, all new Gab members automatically follow Mastriano, Gab founder Andrew Torba and several far-right media outlets.
Numerous posts authored by the Mastriano campaign included antisemitic comments as a reply.
In one, Joey Faust @Capn-Fashizm wrote about Shapiro, “He’s a Jew, which is the #1 core problem with American politics.” Another post, left by superfly2020 read “If (((Shapiro))) can’t fix it, there’s only one solution: get more Jews into government.”
Antisemitic memes were also included in the comments.
ROBODAN posted a double image, the first saying “Jews Rape Kids.” The second urged readers “Do Not Get Vaxxed,” the x’s were replaced with a Star of David.
The alleged shooter at the Tree of Life building was a user of the platform posting neo-Nazi propaganda and calling for violence against the Jewish community.
State Sen. Jay Costa called Mastriano’s use of Gab “horrendous” and a means to attract “people with hate in their heart.”
Costa pointed out that Mastriano has posted 60 times on the social media site, and that many of those posts have attracted comments attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro.
State Rep. Dan Frankel, who represents the 23rd District including Squirrel Hill where the Tree of Life is located, began his statement by describing the vulnerability felt by the Jewish community since Oct. 27.
Frankel called Gab a “festering cesspool of intolerance” where not only Jews but “Black and brown people, LGBTQ plus people and Muslims are all targets of hate and derision, all painted as a threat to the white nationalist vision that unifies Gab users.”
He said that Mastriano paid the platform because he believes it will translate into an election victory on Nov. 8.
Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess linked Mastriano, Gab, the Tree of Life and Charleston AME shootings, calling it the “same brand of hatred.”
He called on local leaders to stand against hate and violence.
Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson Marissa Nahem said the decision to hold the press conference was made after it became public that Mastriano was paying Gab a consulting fee.
She said the Republican candidate was “unfit to be governor.”
In comments to the Chronicle following the press conference, Frankel said that the upcoming election is an “existential issue” and called Mastriano’s posts “inconsistent with ones that, I think, most Pennsylvanians embrace, which is where the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania embraces its diversity and tolerance and where all law-abiding people or groups won’t tolerate bigotry, antisemitism or racism of any kind.”
Democrats aren’t the only ones condemning Mastriano’s use of Gab and the antisemitic comments posted on his page.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the national Republican Jewish Coalition, on Thursday called on Mastriano to leave Gab.
“Jewish voters expect candidates to condemn antisemitism, whether it comes from the far left or far right – and to shun those who espouse it,” Brooks wrote 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.” PJC
Despite attempts, the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle was unable to reach the Mastriano campaign for comment.
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org