Sunday, August 14, 2022

Doug Mastriano is removing his videos from Facebook as he runs for Governor of Pa.

In early April, Doug Mastriano was recording a Facebook Live video on his phone after a legislative session in Harrisburg when he transitioned into his thoughts on global warming.

The state senator from south-central Pennsylvania, who would become the Republican candidate for governor the following month, told supporters he wanted to get the state out of a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, calling it “nonsense.” “that human activity could affect alter the earth’s climate.

A connection between burning fossil fuels and global warming? Simply a “theory,” Mastriano said, based on “popular science.”

“Hell, the meteorologist can’t get the correct weather 24 hours a day,” he said.

As supporting evidence, Mastriano referred to an event he said he attended in Washington, DC, around 1970 when he was a Cub Scout. Environmentalists had warned that when the world’s population reached one billion, he reminded himself, there would be a great catastrophe.

“That was the outrage and the fear back then,” Mastriano said. “There was no global catastrophe when we hit a billion. … They talked about it like it was a fact, like with climate change.”

The anecdote, of course, makes little sense, especially since the world population at the time was already estimated at 3.7 billion.

The video has since disappeared from Mastriano’s campaign Facebook page. In the last three months alone, more than a dozen other videos have also been removed.

The removed videos include free-for-all discussions in which Mastriano predicts the November election will be marred by Democratic voter fraud; he accuses Republicans who don’t support him of disparaging veterans; and he calls the fight against abortion “the most important issue of our lives.”

Here is an excerpt from a deleted Facebook Live video on April 6 in which Mastriano says: climate change is a “theory”.

This has become something of a pattern for Mastriano, 58, a retired army colonel who bills himself as an outspoken populist. He communicates directly with voters online, but sometimes covers his tracks.

Prior to this latest batch of takedowns, Mastriano removed potentially problematic or controversial posts, including tweets promoting the Qanon conspiracy theory, as well as videos calling local religious leaders “cowards”; he acknowledged his COVID diagnosis while visiting the White House; and fell out with Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg.

» READ MORE: Doug Mastriano sticks to his MAGA playbook in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial general election

Mastriano’s Senate website was also scrubbed in a plan it launched during the early days of the pandemic to lift medical privacy restrictions so the government could reveal the names and locations of people infected with COVID-19.

Videos have also been removed from his official Senate Facebook page.

“There are traces of them, but the videos are gone,” said Erin Gallagher, a disinformation researcher at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Gallagher, who lives in northeastern Pennsylvania, has been following Mastriano’s intense social media activity since 2020 as an independent effort, with no affiliation with his college work.

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She has seen his rapid political rise, fueled at first by his opposition to coronavirus safety measures, then false claims about a stolen 2020 presidential election, jump from his computer screen onto the lawn in his part of the state, with billboards of Mastriano for governor. sprouting seemingly overnight. Early polls show Mastriano running head-to-head with state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

“He has a very personal approach to interacting with his fans and I think that’s really effective,” Gallagher said.

But the fact that Mastriano or his campaign are now preemptively removing newer posts (a Facebook Live video recorded three weeks ago no longer exists) is puzzling even to those who have followed him closely.

Why are some videos deleted but others not?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Gallagher said.

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment, and has routinely avoided media interviews outside of friendly radio shows and podcasts.

» READ MORE: Doug Mastriano embodies a Christian nationalist movement as he runs for governor: ‘We have the power of God’

Shannon McGregor, a senior fellow at the Center for Information, Technology and Public Life at the University of North Carolina, said Mastriano may be guarding his social media presence for the general election after a painful primary with a large Republican field. . .

“Some of these things might not have been as much of an issue in a Republican primary as they were in the general election,” McGregor said.

In recent weeks, for example, Mastriano has been trying to mend divisions within the GOP to boost his lagging fundraising, with mixed results: After the primary, he was seen having dinner with the Senate majority leader. , Kim Ward, who had endorsed a rival. But two Republican PACs have already announced their plans to oppose Mastriano, calling him too extreme.

Two Facebook Live videos he recorded in April and May, both of which have since been deleted, would likely not further his goal of building new relationships with Republican leaders. In them, Mastriano repeatedly lashes out at a “corrupt” Republican establishment and presents a novel theory: that Republicans in Pennsylvania worked against him in the primaries because they hate veterans.

“That’s why I’m running, because of… lying, deceitful people who lack integrity and honor like them,” Mastriano said.

He urged his supporters to confront and correct their Republican detractors.

“They can talk about politics, but why do they have to attack me as a person and say the things they do? Because they have this disdain and hatred for veterans,” he said. “If they really respected the veterans, they can disagree on politics, no problem. They can criticize me in politics. But when they make the attacks personal, call them out. Tell them, ‘This epitomizes your disdain for veterans.’”

In another excerpt from a deleted Facebook Live video on April 6, Mastriano talks about Republican leaders who opposed him in the primary feeling disdain for veterans.

On abortion, Mastriano supports tough new restrictions with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the pregnant person, as well as criminal penalties for doctors and nurses who perform the procedure, a position most Pennsylvania voters do not share. As a first step, he introduced a “heartbeat bill,” which would effectively ban abortion after about six weeks, before many even know they’re pregnant.

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More recently, however, he has sought to some extent to move away from abortion and focus on economic issues.

Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign website no longer mentions abortion on the home page, where “protecting life” was previously listed among his campaign priorities. And in a June radio interview she recorded for Facebook (later deleted) she called abortion a “distraction” pushed by his opponents.

“The Democrats and their friends in the mainstream media want us to focus on this and now on the Roe vs. Wade decision instead of dealing with life,” Mastriano said. “And most people in this country are worried about inflation, gas prices, food not on the shelves, baby formula, and so on. So all of this is a distraction.”

A month earlier, in another video that he later deleted, Mastriano described himself as “the most pro-life guy out there” and reiterated his position that “life begins at conception.”

“I’m interested in following the science, and the science says, ‘That’s a baby in the womb.’ What else could it be?” she asked. “Fetus is Latin for baby, by the way.”

In this excerpt from a Facebook Live video deleted on May 2, Mastriano shares his view that abortion is the killing of babies in the womb: “what else could it be?”

McGregor said Mastriano’s tendency to remove videos makes it more difficult for potential voters to fully understand his positions on important issues. She said deleting content from her government accounts is particularly problematic, because it’s considered more of an official record.

“I think it’s a transparency issue for the people of Pennsylvania,” McGregor said. “Those things should be known by the voters, by the public.”

Christopher Nicholas, a longtime Republican political consultant in Pennsylvania, said regardless of why Mastriano is removing content, he has to find a way to broaden his appeal before November, both in message and in the medium. Many independents and moderate Democrats do not visit their Facebook account or listen to right-wing radio and podcasts.

“What worries some people is that their efforts to reach voters are not evolving,” Nicholas said. “In terms of Facebook Conservatives, he and his team, congratulations, really maximized that vote in the primary. That doesn’t win you a general election. Now, you have to do something on top of that.”

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