The Lead

Jewish and Democratic leaders in Florida urge DeSantis to cancel Mastriano rally appearance

By: - August 18, 2022 5:31 pm

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Image via the Florida Phoenix)

Jewish and Democratic leaders in Florida urged Sunshine State Gov. Ron DeSantis to cancel his appearance Friday in Pittsburgh where he is set to campaign for Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor.

In a video call with reporters Thursday, Rabbi Mark Winer, president of the Florida Democratic Party’s Jewish Caucus, said DeSantis’ alliance with Mastriano in Pennsylvania gives comfort and safe harbor to racists and bigots.

DeSantis has been criticized for extremist politics, and what Winer described as “subtle and intelligent kind of bigotry.” DeSantis came under fire earlier this year for not condemning a neo- Nazi demonstration in central Florida. DeSantis is running for reelection in November.

Mastriano has been identified as a key figure in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and was outside the U.S. Capitol during the attempted insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

He has been called out by Jewish leaders in Pennsylvania for paying the alt-right social network Gab, a haven for hate speech, to engage voters. Gab was the platform the gunman accused of killing 11 people at Pittsburgh’s  Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018 used to post anti-semitic screeds.

“When Ron DeSantis goes to Pennsylvania to campaign for Mastriano, what he’s doing is he’s encouraging all of the bigotry – not he himself expressing it – but by supporting Mastriano and Mastriano is at least one or two steps ahead of Ron DeSantis in his fomenting this bigotry,” Winer said.

Fred Guttenberg, an anti-gun violence activist whose daughter died in the Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, spoke about meeting Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro when he traveled to Pittsburgh to support the Tree of Life community on the anniversary of the shooting there. 

Guttenberg said he and Shapiro share a philosophy of working to heal their communities by reducing hate.

“Hate has no place and it leads to the violence that we continue to see, which really gets to why I am raging at this meeting that is going to take place [Friday] with my Governor DeSantis and Mastriano. Let’s not mince words here, Mastriano is an anti-Semite,” Guttenberg said.

Guttenberg said Mastriano has demonstrated his bigotry through his words and actions, such as his reference to Democratic fundraiser George Soros, who is Jewish, as a “dark and sinister” individual and repeating a debunked claim about Soros working for the Nazis during World War II. Addressing DeSantis, Guttenberg said he has a chance to demonstrate that he does not share Mastriano’s values by canceling the appearance.

“If you show up there tomorrow, that is a full embrace of the anti-semitism which some people fear you are embracing. And we are now going to see it in the open,” he said.

The campaign rally is organized by Turning Point America, a nonprofit founded by radio host and conservative activist Charlie Kirk. It promotes conservative viewpoints on high school and university campuses.

The rally is scheduled to take place Friday evening at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown hotel.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.