Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano is once again under fire for making what critics are saying were anti-Semitic comments after he attacked his Democratic rival, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, for attending private schools as a child.
Reporter Jacob Kornbluh of The Forward tweeted video of Mastriano saying at a campaign event on Wednesday: "This is something Josh Shapiro can't relate to. He grew up in a privileged neighborhood, attended one of the most privileged schools in the nation as a young man — not college, I'm talking about as a kid — sending his four kids to the same privileged, exclusive, elite school ... we talk about him having disdain for people like us. We saw that."
While Mastriano didn't mention specifically in the speech that the schools Shapiro attended are Jewish, critics say the references act as dogwhistles for Mastriano's audiences.
"Josh went to a Jewish school. This is Mastriano screaming 'Jew' at him," tweeted journalist David Sirota.
University of Chicago Divinity School scholar of Judaic studies Joel Swanson noted: "This 'privileged, exclusive, elite school' to which Josh Shapiro sent his children was a Jewish day school. We all know what Doug Mastriano means by this."
Shapiro attended two private Jewish day schools in suburban Philadelphia, and he and his family are practicing Conservative Jews, members of one of a number of branches of Judaism, following kosher dietary laws and observe other Jewish practices.
Mastriano is a Christian nationalist who has a long history of making anti-Semitic comments.
On multiple occasions, Mastriano has compared political issues in the United States to the Holocaust, the genocidal slaughter during World War II of 6 million Jews and millions of other members of social groups considered unworthy of living by the Nazi regime in Germany.
Mastriano has shared posts on social media that say abortion is "so much" worse than the Holocaust. He reacted to the firing of an actor from a television show over her own comparison of abortion to the Holocaust by posting on Feb. 11, 2021: "Mandalorian star Gina Carano is absolutely correct. The Cancel Culture mob is behaving like its [sic] 1930s Germany." In June 2020 he posted a meme comparing the preservation of the Auschwitz concentration camp as a memorial and a reminder to refusing to remove statues honoring Confederate soldiers that were erected long after the Civil War.
Mastriano has also as recently as last month falsely accused George Soros, the Jewish philanthropist whose family survived the Holocaust, of working with the Nazis during the war.
Mastriano paid thousands of dollars to recruit campaign supporters through the social media website Gab, a haven for anti-Semites and neo-Nazis, including the man who will stand trial on charges of carrying out the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
Mastriano has tried to blunt the criticism by noting that he had a man who goes by the name "Pastor Don" blow a shofar, a ram's horn trumpet used in Jewish rituals, at one of his campaign events. That in itself drew criticism from Jewish groups, who decry the appropriation of Jewish ritual and symbolism by some Christians for their own purposes.
The Pennsylvania governor's race is drawing national attention as Election Day draws nearer.
Mastriano is vying to take back the governor's mansion for Republicans from term-limited Democrat Tom Wolf in this swing state, which voted for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and President Joe Biden in 2020.
Despite the race being close at the presidential level, polling shows Shapiro with a clear lead with less than two months of campaigning left.
Shapiro has led every public poll in FiveThirtyEight's tracker, giving him an 11.3-point average lead over Mastriano.
Inside Elections, a nonpartisan political handicapping outlet, rates the race Tilt Democratic.
Reprinted with permission from American Independent.