After coming under intense criticism for allying himself with the anti-Semitic founder of the social media platform Gab, and paying Gab $5,000 for “campaign consulting,” Pennsylvania’s far-right gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano tried to distance himself from the site on Thursday.
The Mastriano campaign’s Gab account appeared to have been removed on Thursday. And in a statement, Mastriano said site founder Andrew Torba “doesn’t speak for me” before saying Democrats and the media were using the story as a distraction.
“Andrew Torba doesn’t speak for me or my campaign. I reject anti-Semitism in any form. Recent smears by the Democrats and the the media are blatant attempts to distract Pennsylvanians from suffering inflicted by Democrat policies,” Mastriano wrote.
Then, an odd aside.
“While extremist speech is an unfortunate but inevitable cost of living in a free society, extremist policies are not,” Mastriano said, before attacking his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
The statement didn’t really address some core elements of the story. His campaign paid Gab $5,000 for “campaign consulting” earlier this year, in what HuffPost reported appeared to be an agreement that every new user on the platform would automatically follow the campaign’s account.
For his part, Torba denied in a Gab post Thursday that he was a Mastriano campaign consultant, but confirmed, “The campaign paid Gab as a business for advertising during the primary.”
“I stand by everything I have said about Christian Nationalism as a movement being explicitly Christian,” Torba added. “This should be obvious by the name. Others are certainly welcome to support the movement and enjoy the fruits of Christian leadership and culture, but we need candidates, leaders, thinkers, influencers, culture warriors, and builders who believe in and follow Jesus Christ.”
Elsewhere, Torba has been more explicit about his view toward Jews.
“We’re building a parallel Christian society because we are fed up and done with the Judeo-Bolshevik one,” he said on Twitter last year. And more recently, in response to the coverage of his ties to Mastriano: “We don’t want people who are atheists. We don’t want people who are Jewish. We don’t want people who are, you know, nonbelievers, agnostic, whatever.”
On Tuesday, Torba said, apparently referring to American Jews, “we’re not bending the knee to the 2% anymore.”