Shapiro to launch ads hitting Mastriano over ties to far-right social media site

Last updated on August 15, 2022

Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro is launching a pair of attack ads targeting his opponent’s ties to the far-right social media network Gab.

The campaign is putting more than $1 million behind the television commercials, which were first shared with POLITICO, and airing them across the state.

Republican Doug Mastriano has come under fire for paying $5,000 for “consulting” services to Gab, the site where Robert Bowers made antisemitic posts before the deadly mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.

Mastriano also participated in an interview with Gab CEO Andrew Torba, where he told him, “Thank God for what you’ve done.”

In one of Shapiro’s ads, a narrator describes Gab as a “white supremacist website” where “minutes before Jews were killed at this synagogue, the murderer posted his hate-filled plan.” The spot highlights Mastriano’s payment to Gab.

Another commercial by Shapiro features TV news clips about the controversy, with one anchor saying that “elected leaders and members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community are calling out gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s ties to a controversial social media site.”

After facing mounting criticism over his links to Gab, including from some in the GOP, Mastriano said in a statement that Torba “doesn’t speak for me” and that “I reject antisemitism in any form.” He also appears to have deleted his account on the site.

Previously, Torba made antisemitic remarks and said his “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.”

Republican leaders in the state have largely stood by Mastriano amid the controversy and argued that he settled the matter with his statement denouncing antisemitism.

Shapiro’s new ads are part of his campaign’s longstanding efforts to paint Mastriano as extreme. His other commercials have said that Mastriano is too conservative on abortion.

Mastriano, who has struggled with fundraising, has not aired any commercials on television during the general election. Shapiro’s lead in the polls has grown as Mastriano has ceded the airwaves to him.

Shapiro’s two TV spots about Gab will begin airing Sunday. His campaign purchased additional points in the Pittsburgh area, the site of the Tree of Life shooting.