Jewish Democrats slam Ron DeSantis for campaigning with Doug Mastriano, Republican who praised founder of far-right platform Gab

  • In Politics
  • 2022-08-18 19:21:53Z
  • By Business Insider
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference behind a podium
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference behind a podium  
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is attending a rally in Pennsylvania with state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

  • Mastriano has praised Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab and a self-described Christian nationalist.

  • Jewish Democrats in Florida accused DeSantis of legitimizing far-right extremism.

Jewish Democrats in Florida on Thursday called for Gov. Ron DeSantis to pull out of a rally with Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano, arguing that the appearance with a candidate who has welcomed the support of Christian nationalists would only encourage far-right extremism.

DeSantis, who is himself up for reelection, is scheduled to attend a rally in Pittsburgh on Friday with Mastriano, who won the GOP nomination for governor after being endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Currently a state senator, Mastriano has been widely rebuked, including by members of his own party, for associating with Gab, a social network favored by white supremacists, including the man who attacked worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue; Mastriano praised Gab's founder -- a self-described "Christian nationalist" who has said Jews are not welcome in his movement -- and paid the site $5,000 before deleting his own account in the wake of criticism.

"Let's not mince words here: Mastriano is an antisemite," Fred Guttenberg, a gun control activist whose daughter was killed in the Parkland school shooting, said on a press call Thursday. "He has shown himself to be with words and actions over an extended period of time. Any embrace of Mastriano is an embrace of antisemitism, full stop."

DeSantis has himself condemned antisemitism, including a demonstration earlier this year by neo-Nazis in Orlando. But his press secretary at the time also suggested that the rally might have been carried out by Democratic operatives.

Guttenberg argued that the Florida governor, seen as a potential presidential contender in 2024, "likes to have it both ways," condemning bigots but also working with them, and "in essence" embracing antisemitism with his associations. Attending the rally, organized by the conservative group Turning Point Action, will be a "full embrace of antisemitism," he maintained.

"Governor DeSantis, I've met with you in person," Guttenberg said. "Do not go to Pennsylvania and do this. Be better than this. This is a moment to stand up for something that is bigger than your need to secure your base."

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Dr. Samuel Edelman, an expert on the Holocaust and member of the Florida Democratic Party Jewish Caucus leadership, argued that the rally in Pennsylvania was emblematic of once-fringe ideas going mainstream. Mastriano, for example, clashed with the Pennsylvania GOP leadership before winning a plurality in the May primary, with the help of Trump and after backing a campaign that embraced outlandish conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

"From the January 6 riots to the use of culture wars that we see in state legislatures, including in Florida, we see little bits of white supremacy and Nazi ideology being mainstreamed by the Republican Party," Edelman said.

DeSantis' office did not respond to a request for comment.

Rabbi Mark Winer, president of the Florida Democratic Party Jewish Caucus, accused the governor of providing "active comfort" to the worst elements of America.

"His going out of his way to campaign for Mastriano just underlines for all of us in Florida the extent to which Gov. DeSantis provides such comfort - such safe harbor - to bigots and racists of every kind," Winer said.


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