Doug Mastriano says his antisemitic ally ‘doesn’t speak for me’

After days avoiding questions about antisemitic remarks by a supporter of his campaign, Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, said on Thursday that he rejected “antisemitism in any form.’’

Mr. Mastriano has faced mounting criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike since it was revealed in early July that he paid $5,000 in campaign funds to the far-right social media site Gab. The payment, for “consulting,’’ apparently was intended to bring Mr. Mastriano a broader following on Gab, which is known as a haven for white nationalists and users banned from other platforms.

In defending Mr. Mastriano’s ties to Gab in recent days, its founder, Andrew Torba, repeatedly made antisemitic remarks and said in one video that neither he nor Mr. Mastriano would give interviews to non-Christian journalists.

Mr. Mastriano on Thursday did not condemn Mr. Torba. He blamed Democrats and “the media” for the controversy.

“Andrew Torba doesn’t speak for me or my campaign,’’ Mr. Mastriano wrote in a statement released on Twitter. “I reject anti-Semitism in any form. Recent smears by the Democrats and the media are blatant attempts to distract Pennsylvanians from suffering inflicted by Democrat policies.”

While Mr. Mastriano had remained silent about Gab earlier, Mr. Torba had responded to reports about the payment by Mr. Mastriano’s campaign in a series of livestreamed videos.

“My policy is not to conduct interviews with reporters who aren’t Christian or with outlets who aren’t Christian, and Doug has a very similar media strategy where he does not do interviews with these people,” Mr. Torba said in one video, according to The Jerusalem Post. “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.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Torba used an antisemitic trope in response to criticism from the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, who had condemned Mr. Mastriano for using Gab to post messages and gain political supporters.

“We’re not bending the knee to the 2 percent anymore,” Mr. Torba said in a video, an apparent reference to the rough percentage of the country that is Jewish. “We’re taking back our country,” he added. “We’re taking back our government, so deal with it.”

Mr. Mastriano, a far-right Pennsylvania state senator who has falsely argued that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, rarely speaks to traditional news outlets.

In recent days, pressure from Republicans in Pennsylvania and beyond for Mr. Mastriano to condemn Gab and quit the site has grown. Andy Reilly, the national Republican committeeman for Pennsylvania, who hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Mastriano at his suburban Philadelphia home on Wednesday, said in an interview that Gab was “shameful” and “shouldn’t be part of the usual political dialogue.”

“Doug should make sure he makes it clear that he doesn’t agree with the people posting hateful things on the site,’’ Mr. Reilly said several hours before Mr. Mastriano released his statement on Thursday evening.

The two-paragraph statement neither addressed whether Mr. Mastriano, like Mr. Torba, follows a policy of not giving interviews to non-Christian news outlets, nor clarified why he had paid Gab $5,000. According to reporting by HuffPost, Mr. Mastriano may have paid Gab to increase his following on the site: New users appeared to be automatically assigned as followers of the Republican nominee.

About an hour before Mr. Mastriano’s statement was posted, Mr. Torba wrote on Gab that he did not work for the Mastriano campaign and was not its consultant. “The campaign paid Gab as a business for advertising during the primary,” he said. “The campaign posts on Gab, as do 50+ other campaigns from around the country. That’s the extent of the relationship.”

Later on Thursday, Mr. Mastriano made his Gab account private and then removed it, according to The Forward.

The Democratic nominee for governor, Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish, responded to Mr. Mastriano’s statement Thursday by recalling his praise for Mr. Torba in May: “Thank God for what you’ve done.”

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