“Jewish voters expect candidates to condemn antisemitism whether it comes from the far left or the far right — and to shun those who espouse it,” said Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “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.”
Following his campaign’s payment to Gab, Mastriano — who rarely speaks with reporters from traditional media outlets — sat down for an interview with Torba and lauded the site founder, telling him, “Thank God for what you’ve done.”
Mastriano responded to the criticism on Thursday evening and distanced himself from Torba, saying the Gab founder “doesn’t speak for me or my campaign.”
“I reject anti-Semitism in any form,” Mastriano said, before going on to attack his opponent, Josh Shapiro, and Democrats.
“We’re not bending the knee to the 2% anymore,” Torba said, a reference to the general estimate of the Jewish population in the United States. “We’re not taking it anymore, bud. We are taking back our culture. We’re taking back our country. We’re taking back our government. So, deal with it.”
Asked Thursday about the criticism over his relationship with Mastriano, Torba told CNN, “I only speak to Christian news outlets. Repent and call on the name of Jesus Christ.”
“The campaign paid Gab as a business for advertising during the primary. The campaign posts on Gab, as do 50+ other campaigns from around the country. That’s the extent of the relationship,” he said. “My words are my own. My ideas are my own. They are not representative of Doug or Doug’s campaign.”
Representatives for Mastriano did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment. And the Republican Governors Association responded with a broad statement on the race that did not address Mastriano’s relationship with Gab.
At least one Republican member of the Pennsylvania statehouse has denounced Torba’s recent comments.
Torba responded Thursday by calling Stephens a “RINO” — Republican in name only — and urging his supporters to deliver “harsh pushback” to the state legislator.
“We’re dragging the Republican party to the right and anyone who gets in our way is going to be left behind,” he wrote on Gab.
Democrats have also criticized Mastriano for his association with Torba.
Jill Zipin, co-founder of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, said that while she has long worked to defeat Republicans, “this feels very different.”
“Josh is not running against your typical run of the mill Republican. He is running against someone who enables hatred,” Zipin said. “Speaking for myself and the members of my board, it’s frightening.”
And Shapiro said this week that the relationship between Gab and Mastriano was “not normal.”
This story has been updated with additional details.