Is there nothing extreme about Doug Mastriano? Nothing at all?

Doug Mastriano
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File
FILE – State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, a Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, speaks at a primary night election gathering in Chambersburg, Pa., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor, offered to sit for a voluntary interview with the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and already spoke to the FBI last year about what he knew about it, his lawyer said Thursday, June 2.

“There’s nothing extreme about me,” says Doug Mastriano, state senator from Pennsylvania and Republican nominee for governor. This spring and summer, Mastriano has doubled down on beliefs and behavior that not long ago would have been deemed disqualifying for any major party candidate. And Pennsylvania’s most powerful and prominent Republican politicians are sticking with him — or continuing to stare at their shoelaces.

Mastriano emerged from obscurity to become the “GOP legislator most loyal to Trump.” Between November 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, he posted election disinformation on his Facebook page more than 100 times. Biden’s win, Mastriano claimed, was “statistically impossible.” He advocated decertifying Dominion voting machines and requiring all citizens in the state to re-register to vote. Mastriano introduced a bill in the state senate rejecting the certification of Pennsylvania’s presidential election results. He asserted that Vice President Mike Pence should not accept Electoral College tallies. Mastriano used campaign funds to charter buses to take Trump supporters to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 and attended the rally himself. He continues to view Joe Biden as an illegitimate president.

Mastriano has shared more than 50 tweets with the QAnon hashtag, including messages and memes promoting unfounded and debunked allegations that a pedophilia ring operated out of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., and Muslim terrorists burned down Notre Dame Cathedral in 2015. He posted a video claiming that COVID-19 is a “government sponsored virus” and “vaccines kill and cause autism.” Mastriano shared a meme using photographic symbols indicating that “Islam wants to kill” people of other faiths. He has compared the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade (1973) decision to the Holocaust. He ridicules climate change as “fake science.” Mastriano believes homosexuality is “aberrant sexual conduct,” opposes gay marriage, opposes allowing gays to serve in the U.S. military, and opposes the right of gay couples to adopt children.

In April 2022, Mastriano spoke at a “Patriots Arise for God and Country” gathering in Gettysburg, Pa., hosted by two QAnon activists. The event featured videos declaring that the attack on the World Trade Center was “a false flag” and affirming that a “great awakening” would soon “expose ritual child sacrifice” and “a global satanic blood cult.” After predicting he would be elected governor (“My God will make it so”), Mastriano stated that the United States was a Christian nation and mocked “the myth of the separation of church and state.” Asked about QAnon’s prominent role at the event, he replied, “So what?”

In July, investigative journalists discovered that Mastriano’s campaign paid “consulting” fees to Gab, a white nationalist web site. Its founder and CEO, Andrew Torba, boasted that neither he nor Mastriano conduct interviews with reporters from news outlets that are not Christian. “This is an explicitly Christian movement because this is an explicitly Christian country,” Torba asserted. In a video, Torba said, “We’re not bending to the knee of the 2 percent anymore,” an apparent reference to Jews. “We’re taking back our country. We’re taking back our government. So, deal with it.” Mastriano has publicly praised Torba for “giving us a platform for free speech… Thank God for what you’ve done.”

In response to the firestorm that erupted following these revelations, Mastriano released a statement indicating that he rejects anti-Semitism “in any form” and that Torba “doesn’t speak for me or my campaign.” He did not repudiate Torba or Gab. Instead, Mastriano blamed the controversy on the media and Democrats.

Confronted with Mastriano’s words and deeds, Republican politicians in the Keystone State have circled the wagons. Mastriano “has my full support,” said Kim Ward, majority leader of the state senate. Andy Reilly, chair of the Delaware County GOP and a member of the Republican National Committee, explained, “When you play team sports, you learn what being part of the team means … No matter how you slice it,” he said, Mastriano’s philosophy “is much better” than his Democratic opponent’s, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Asked about Mastriano’s Gabfest, retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey told reporters, “I don’t have anything to say about it.”

Mum’s the word as well for Dr. Mehmet Oz, the GOP candidate to replace Toomey. A few months ago, it’s worth noting, Oz denounced the “Islamophobic and homophobic” remarks of Kathy Barnette, one of his rivals in the Republican primary. “It’s reprehensible that she would tweet out something that is defamatory to an entire religion,” Oz proclaimed. “This state was built on religious freedom. I’m proud as a Pennsylvanian to uphold the founding beliefs that every faith has its merits.”

MAGA zealots and their enablers, who now control the GOP “establishment,” have been quick to censure colleagues with impeccable conservative credentials who failed to challenge the 2020 presidential election results; voted to impeach Donald Trump; or cooperated with the House of Representatives Select Committee on Jan. 6.

No matter how you slice it, by embracing the election deniers, conspiracy promoters, and bigots who are emerging — with Doug Mastriano — as the faces and future of the GOP, they can no longer legitimately claim to be heirs of the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of “Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.”

Tags anti-gay anti-semitism anti-vax Anti-vaxx movement Anti-vaxxers antisemitic Antisemitism antivax Capitol insurrection Christian nationalism claims of 2020 election fraud Doug Mastriano Homophobia Homophobic Islamophobia Islamophobic Jan. 6 Capitol attack January 6 attack on the Capitol Pennsylvania governor's race Pennsylvania politics Pennsylvania Republican Party Pennsylvania Republicans Separation of church and state the big lie trumpism

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