Politics & Government

NC lawmaker says he’s being ‘smeared’ for investment in site tied to white supremacists

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A Republican senator from Charlotte said Wednesday that he’s being “smeared” over a one-time investment in a social media site popular with white supremacists and used by the alleged synagogue shooter in Pittsburgh.

Republican Sen. Dan Bishop said he invested $500 in Gab, which billed itself as a free speech platform. It later became popular with white supremacists and Robert Bowers, the alleged killer of 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.

“I made a $500 crowdfunding investment 14 months ago in a startup called Gab, which promoted itself as a new, unbiased social media platform,” he tweeted. “I don’t use Gab, but if its management allows its users to promote violence, anti-Semitism, and racism on the platform they have misled investors and they will be gone quickly, and rightfully so.

“Why I’m being targeted and smeared by a British tabloid for a $500 investment in the final days of a campaign, I have no clue.”

Bishop’s involvement was first reported Tuesday in the Daily Mail. It cited an August 2017 Facebook post, in which he said, “I’m about done with SF thought police tech giants’ Big Brother routine, and so ... I just invested in a free-speech social network startup mentioned in a Washington Post article today, Gab.ai,” he wrote. “Free markets are the answer to many kinds of tyranny.”

Bishop faces Democrat Chad Stachowicz in Tuesday election in District 39.

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Bishop’s 2017 post came days after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville left one counter-protester dead. Gab, a site similar to Twitter, attracted neo-Nazis and other controversial far right figures, according to the Washington Post. The site was coming under fire after Charlottesville. Google barred the site from its Google Play Store.

In a subsequent lawsuit against Google, Gab said it had 268,000 users a year after opening to the public in 2016. It billed itself as a free speech platform.

Accused Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers posted on gab shortly before going to the synagogue, according to The New York Times.

Democrats called on Bishop to disavow the site.

“Our community deserves to know why Dan Bishop was funding a platform for hate speech,” said Chad Stachowisz, his Democratic opponent. “His investment helped spread white nationalist content, so we deserve to know if he holds these views. Dan Bishop should have known he was playing with fire.”

One party official alluded to Bishop’s 2016 authorship of the controversial House Bill 2, the so-called bathroom bill.

“No modern politician in North Carolina has done more to promote hate and discrimination than Dan Bishop,” said Kimberly Reynolds, executive director of the state Democratic Party. “From funding a hate-speech fueled social media platform riddled with anti-Semitic and white nationalist content to legislating discrimination, Bishop continues to embarrass our state.”

Jim Morrill, 704-358-5059; @jimmorrill
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