Mere hours after a white supremacist massacred 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018, Andrew Torba, CEO and founding father of the social media site Gab, gloated about all the online traffic his platform was receiving.
“We now have been getting 1 million hits an hour all day,” Torba wrote via Gab’s Twitter account. Gab had drawn national scrutiny immediately after the bloodshed in Pittsburgh since the killer, Robert Bowers, was a prolific and verified user of the location. He’d posted neo-Nazi propaganda and calls for violence against Jewish people, whom he called the “children of Devil.”
Bowers had often directed his ire on the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish charity that helps refugees. He blaming it for trying to switch white people in America — an invocation of the “great alternative” conspiracy theory. “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” Bowers wrote on Gab two hours before he drove to the Tree of Life synagogue with an assault rifle and three handguns. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m entering into.”
A lady prays at a memorial service for the victims of the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh, Oct. 29, 2018.
Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images via Getty Images
Because the country reeled from the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, Torba claimed Gab had a “zero tolerance policy” for violence. He argued that Bowers was an anomaly. This was false: Torba had actively recruited America’s most notorious bigots and antisemites to affix Gab, promoting it as a less censorious alternative to Twitter and turning the platform right into a fascist free-for-all. Whilst Torba denied that Gab condoned violence, its users were celebrating the 11 dead Jews in Pittsburgh.
Within the years since, Gab has remained a haven for hate, and Torba himself has grown increasingly antisemitic and racist in his words and behavior. “We’re constructing a parallel Christian society because we’re fed up and done with the Judeo-Bolshevik one,” he tweeted last yr, using a term popularized by the Nazi Party within the Thirties. In February, Torba was a featured speaker at a white supremacist conference in Florida, where he used “great alternative” rhetoric. (Other speakers on the event praised Adolf Hitler and called for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be hanged.) More recently, after a white supremacist gunman targeted Black people at a food market in Buffalo, Latest York, killing 10, Torba implored his Gab followers to marry and reproduce with only white people.
In a healthy multiracial democracy, Torba can be politically radioactive. In the USA in 2022, though, he’s a paid campaign consultant for the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania.
The media watchdog nonprofit Media Matters recently noticed that the campaign to elect Doug Mastriano had paid Gab $5,000 on April 28 for “campaign consulting,” in accordance with the most recent campaign finance disclosures. (In a reproduction filing, the payment is listed as “promoting consulting.”)
Mastriano’s willingness to not only pay but publicly praise a racist and antisemite like Torba is alarming, considering he could win the governorship this November. The newest polls show Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator, narrowly trailing his Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro. (As attorney general, Shapiro probed Gab’s role within the Tree of Life massacre and subpoenaed the location’s server, but later dropped the investigation without charges.)
HuffPost can have uncovered what Mastriano’s $5,000 is getting him: latest followers on Gab.
Every latest account currently being created on Gab routinely follows Mastriano. HuffPost created five latest accounts on Thursday. Each routinely followed the identical seven accounts: those belonging to Torba, a handful of far-right media outlets, and Mastriano.
A scroll through Mastriano’s recent followers on the location shows lots of them to be anonymous accounts created this month. Furthermore, an archived version of Mastriano’s page from early April, before his campaign paid Gab, shows him with only 2,300 followers. He now has nearly 37,000.
The Mastriano campaign didn’t reply to a request for comment, which is unsurprising, for the reason that far-right candidate is refusing to interact with the mainstream press.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, gestures to the gang during his primary night election party in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, May 17, 2022.
Carolyn Kaster via Associated Press
Torba didn’t reply to a matter about Gab promoting Mastriano, but he said via email that Gab doesn’t “comment on customer relationships.”
“What I’ll say is that Doug Mastriano will probably be an amazing governor for Pennsylvania,” wrote Torba, who lives within the state. “He’s going to thrash Josh Shapiro on Election Day and he has my wholehearted personal endorsement.”
Mastriano is one in all a handful of far-right Republicans across the country who’ve embraced Gab as a part of their campaigns. Mastriano has posted to the location 66 times since joining in February. In early May, just a number of days after his campaign paid Gab, he sat down for an interview with Torba. “Thank God for what you’ve done,” Mastriano told the Gab CEO.
Ten days later, Gab officially endorsed Mastriano. “Finally we now have a robust Christian man to steer PA out of the pit of hell and into the glory of God,” Torba wrote.
On May 17, Mastriano, who also had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, won his party’s primary for Pennsylvania governor.
Like Torba, Mastriano is an element of the anti-democratic Christian nationalist movement, which imagines America to be a nation exclusively created for Christians. The movement sees its political opponents as evil and Satanic.
Mastriano has promoted conspiracy theories related to QAnon, the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election. He was a distinguished figure in Trump’s effort to overturn the outcomes of that election, and was subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 committee over his attempts to send fake electors to Washington to disclaim a victory for President Joe Biden.
Mastriano was also near the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as that day’s “Stop the Steal” rally exploded right into a violent rebellion.
If elected as governor this November, he may have great power over the battleground state’s electoral process in 2024.