Andrew Torba, the founder and CEO of the Gab, a social media platform popular among white nationalists, has a long track record of antisemitism. And he’s becoming a liability for some right-wing candidates vying for office this fall.
Torba is well-connected in the conservative movement, which makes sense given his platform is effectively a safe haven for right-wing hatemongers.
His role in GOP politics has come into sharper focus in recent weeks after candidates he supports have won primary elections. And while some of those candidates are openly embracing him, others are slyly trying to distance themselves from him in an effort to dress up their images ahead of the general election.
Enter: Arizona GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters and Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano.
Critics dragged Masters this week after he was caught in a lie claiming he “never heard of” Torba, who endorsed his campaign last month. The online publication Jewish Insider released audio Wednesday of Masters and Torba in conversation on Twitter’s Spaces platform in January. In a roughly three-minute chat, Masters told Torba he's not opposed to the platform and claimed it was wrong for Apple to remove Gab from its app store.
As Jewish Insider noted, Masters supports a policy that would drastically curb tech companies’ ability to remove hate speech and abusive users from their platforms.
Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for Pennsylvania governor, is in hot water over his ties to Torba as well. He can ill afford to be seen as more of an extremist than he already is. Mastriano frequently peddles former President Donald Trump's conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, paid to bus Trump supporters to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, and was photographed outside the Capitol as the deadly riot commenced.
Last month, progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America, citing a state filing, reported that Mastriano paid Gab at least $5,000 earlier this year for "campaign consulting." Mastriano, a Christian nationalist who believes the Bible should dictate policy, has offered glowing praise of Torba.
"Thank God for what you’ve done," Mastriano told Torba in May.
For the record, what Torba's done is host a platform for extremists and repeatedly disparage Jewish people. (Note: Mastriano’s Democratic opponent, Josh Shapiro, is Jewish).
Mastriano issued a statement after news of his Gab payment broke claiming Torba "doesn't speak for me or my campaign." But the statement didn't condemn Torba's antisemitism or any of the things he’s ever said.
Republicans like Mastriano and Masters clearly understand the downside of publicly backing an overt antisemite. But their past interactions with Torba make it virtually impossible to distance themselves from him.