Morse supporters call for investigation into reports that allegations were engineered
Progressive House candidate and Holyoke, Mass., Mayor Alex Morse’s supporters are calling for an immediate investigation into reports that allegations of inappropriate behavior were engineered by the University of Massachusetts College Democrats in an effort to hurt his primary challenge against House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.).
The calls came after Politico reported Thursday that the Massachusetts Democratic Party intends to launch an investigation into the group of college Democrats after the Sept. 1 primary.
“We commend the party chair for recognizing the importance of investigating this orchestrated political hit job on Alex, but we urge him to conduct an independent investigation immediately so voters can fill out their ballots with all the information available to them,” said Sean Meloy, the senior political director of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Morse.
“We now know the leadership of UMass Amherst College Democrats was conspiring to damage Alex’s campaign since at least October. Yet they chose to release the information 10 months later — literally as ballots dropped in voters’ mailboxes — and motivated by hopes of a future political career with Alex’s opponent,” Meloy continued. “We said from the beginning that the allegations were timed with the political calendar and that it is a disservice to voters and to everyone involved. Now we know that timing was purposeful.”
The statement comes days after the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, UMass Amherst’s student newspaper, wrote about a letter from the College Democrats of Massachusetts alleging inappropriate behavior between Morse and students.
The letter alleged, according to the Daily Collegian, that Morse regularly matched with students on dating apps, added students he met at College Democrats events on Instagram and sent them direct messages, and had “sexual contact” with college students at UMass Amherst and other schools.
Morse’s campaign was then dealt a major blow when the Sunrise Movement suspended its campaigning on his behalf. Additionally, progressive rising star and fellow House candidate Jamaal Bowman told The Hill he was pausing his endorsement for Morse.
However, The Intercept reported late Wednesday that the UMass Amherst College Democrats started discussing ways to damage Morse’s campaign as early as October. The group’s leaders reportedly discussed how they could access Morse’s dating profiles and get him to say something damaging. Morse was working as a lecturer at the university at the time.
Additionally, the outlet published correspondences featuring the college’s chief strategist, Timothy Ennis, in which he said he was a “Neal stan” and that he was confident Neal would give him an internship. Ennis was also a student of Neal’s at the college, according to the Intercept.
The Morse campaign has seized on the developments, sending out a release to reporters on Thursday titled “Evidence grows of Richie Neal connection to attacks on Alex Morse.”
“I think the larger question is why three weeks out from the election, I’m in the position to talk about my personal life and my personal sex life rather than the issues that we got into this fight to begin with last July,” Morse told reporters in a press conference on Thursday.
Neal in a statement on Thursday denied having any involvement in the publishing of the allegations.
“I learned about the allegations against Mayor Morse the same way everyone else did, in the Daily Collegian last week,” Neal said. “I also want to be clear: I will not tolerate my name being associated with any homophobic attacks or efforts to criticize someone for who they choose to love. That’s inconsistent with my character and my values.
“Any implications that I or anyone from my campaign are involved are flat wrong and an attempt to distract from the issue at hand,” he added. “I have been and will remain entirely focused on the respective records of myself and Mayor Morse.”
—Updated at 4:28 p.m.