Pennsylvania GOP candidate Doug Mastriano finally gives up Gab — but won't quit Christofascism

The Republican candidate for governor repudiated the anti-Semitic social media site, but curiously not its leader

By Heather Digby Parton


Published July 29, 2022 9:51AM (EDT)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks at an election-night party at The Orchards on May 17, 2022 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks at an election-night party at The Orchards on May 17, 2022 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Pennsylvania's GOP nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, is under fire again for his extremist views. The Republican is in hot water for paying consulting fees to Gab, a white nationalist social media site owned by a raging anti-Semite named Andrew Torba. Torba is quoted saying:

"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. This is an explicitly Christian movement because this is an explicitly Christian country."

Needless to say, Torba is also a raging Islamophobe.

Gab is probably best known for being the site that helped inspire the Tree of Life Synagogue mass murder in 2018, but Torba has also supported white nationalist influencer Nick Fuentes, as well as the Great Replacement theory currently being mainstreamed by Fox News' Tucker Carlson. Torba's a Vladimir Putin super fan, endorsing Russia's invasion of Ukraine for being "liberated and cleansed from the degeneracy of the secular western globalist empire." He's also expressed support for an idea popular among neo-Nazis, the theory of "accelerationism," which holds that society needs to be "burned to the ground" and has been cited in numerous far-right mass murderers' manifestos. He is, in short, a Christofascist.

Mastriano, who is set to face off against Pennsylvania's Democratic attorney general this fall, has reportedly been an eager participant on Gab for some time now. Such views are common on the platform, but Mastriano's presence should not be surprising considering that he was also a participant in the January 6 insurrection (he denies going into the Capitol although there is evidence that he did) and has affiliated himself with some of the most extreme Christian Nationalist organizations in America.

Sarah Posner reported for Talking Points Memo last spring that Mastriano "announced his run for governor at a Christian nationalist event at which a shofar was blown, an increasingly commonplace occurrence as a symbol of Trump's victory over satanic forces, otherwise known as our democracy." Mastriano commonly appears at events hosted by Christian Nationalist extremist groups like Pennsylvania For Christ and Patriots Arise for God, Family, and Country, and has even been associated with a group headed by the son of Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon called the "Rod of Iron Ministries" at which adherents perform ceremonies wearing bullet crowns and carrying AR-15s. Moon and some of his followers were also among the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

After the media started to pay attention to his close ties to Gab founder Torba, and it was revealed that Mastriano actually paid Torba for campaign consulting, the gubernatorial candidate issued a statement saying that he rejects anti-semitism and railing against the Democrats. He complained that Democrats were smearing him by calling attention to his affiliations with Christofascists. On Thursday night, however, Mastriano finally deleted his account on Gab and Torba released a statement saying that his words are his alone and do not reflect Mastriano's beliefs. Mastriano, most notably, did not repudiate Torba.

The fact is that the GOP nominee for governor of Pennsylvania is also a Christofascist with Neo-Nazi ties. That may sound hyperbolic but the record is clear. If he were alone in this, a fringe character who accidentally fell into the nomination it would be one thing. But he has a real constituency in the party.

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The Great Replacement Theory has gone mainstream, having been promoted heavily by Tucker Carlson on Fox News. The New York Times did an in-depth profile of Carlson's show and determined that "in more than 400 episodes of his show, Mr. Carlson has amplified the notion that Democratic politicians and other assorted elites want to force demographic change through immigration" and "replace" what he calls "legacy Americans." This is a common theme in right-wing media and what's left unsaid is just as interesting as what they are saying: Who is defined as the "invaders"  coming to destroy American culture?

In Europe, where this theory really took flight in the last decade as immigration from the middle east and Africa, under pressure from war and famine, it is Muslim immigrants who are seen as the invaders. In America today, most people would say that any foreigner with black or brown skin would qualify. In earlier times on both continents, however, Jews were always portrayed as representing this threat. You can see by the comments of fascists like Torba that anti-semitism remains a big part of this belief system. The Nazis marching in Charlottesville chanting "Jews will not replace us" made that very plain.

The European right has tried to downplay the anti-semitism in recent years and it helped them move into the mainstream. But it's still there. A case in point is the vaunted leader of the European right today, Viktor Orban. I wrote about his affiliation with Tucker Carlson and the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) earlier, which showed the tremendous influence Orban is having on the American right. Using government power to hobble the media, academia, the judiciary and manipulate the voting system, he has managed to subvert the Hungarian democracy and institute a modern fascist state and they are watching him closely.

He has long derided Muslim immigrants as a threat to European "Christian Identity" but last week, he made some statements that lowered the veil and exposed his true intentions. He gave a speech in which he described immigration as "population replacement or inundation." But he went further, making it clear just what that means:

"Migration has split Europe in two — or I could say that it has split the West in two.One half is a world where European and non-European peoples live together. These countries are no longer nations. They are nothing more than a conglomeration of peoples...We are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race."

The speech was so noxious that it caused one of his longest standing associates, who happens to be Jewish, to resign in disgust calling it "a pure Nazi speech worthy of Goebbels" that would "please even the most bloodthirsty racists." She said he had advocated an "openly racist policy that is now unacceptable even for the Western European extreme right." She could hear the echoes of the past in his speech. And while he didn't explicitly say "Jews will not replace us" his constant haranguing of pro-democracy philanthropist George Soros, who was born in Hungary, is a perfectly adequate wink and nod.

If it's true that the Western European right is rejecting him, Orban can take heart in the fact that he still has plenty of friends right here in the good old USA. He is going to be a featured speaker at the CPAC conference in Dallas next week alongside the likes of Ted Cruz, R-TX., Rick Scott, R-FL., Greg Abbott, R-TX., and various right-wing luminaries such as Sean Hannity and Steve Bannon. Donald Trump will keynote, of course. When asked about whether it was right to allow Orban to attend the conference after making his poisonous comments, CPAC executive Matt Schlapp just said, "let's listen to the man speak." I would expect nothing less. Doug Mastriano, for his part, isn't scheduled to speak. No doubt he's busy on the campaign trail. But he will assuredly be there in spirit. These are his people. 

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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