Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez backs Alex Morse despite alleged ‘smear campaign’ (Getty Images)
Left-wing Democratic firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has given her backing to congressional hopeful Alex Morse, who faced an alleged homophobic smear campaign over his Grindr hook-ups.
Morse, a progressive challenger hoping to unseat centre-left Democratic congressman Richard Neal, faced a scandal earlier this month (7 August) when a College Democrats group accused him of improperly pursuing sexual relationships through Grindr and Tinder with college students “who were as young as 18 years old”.
The 31-year-old – who previously served as an guest lecturer at University of Massachusetts, Amherst – maintains he has only ever had consensual sexual relationships, and has never had sex with any student he teaches. No accuser has come forward to allege otherwise.
The claims against Morse quickly unravelled when left-wing outlet The Intercept published leaked chat logs which appear to show College Democrats leaders and self-described “Neal stans” spending months discussing plans to smear Morse in order to win favour with Neal – with whom they hoped to secure internships.
Subsequent revelations have also implicated some Massachusetts Democratic figures, who are accused of helping the students to produce a letter detailing the allegations.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backs Alex Morse despite alleged ‘smear campaign’.
Morse said he has been vindicated by the leaks, telling NBC: “A number of folks are seeing it for what it is, in terms of the the language and response to the accusations being rooted in age-old homophobic tropes and the constant over-policing of the personal lives, the sex lives, of gay men and members of the queer community.”
He stressed: “I have never, in my entire life, had a non-consensual sexual encounter with anyone. I have never used my position of power as mayor [of Holyoke] or UMass lecturer for romantic or sexual gain, or to take advantage of students. I have never violated UMass policy.”
The revelations about the alleged smear plot, which Neal has been at pains to distanced himself from, appear to have only strengthened support and fundraising for Morse ahead of the 1 September primary.
With less than a week to go before the vote, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threw her support behind the progressive challenger via her Courage to Change PAC.
In a statement to The New York Times, Morse said: “When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took on her own entrenched incumbent in 2018, she changed public service for the better, further inspiring me and so many others to fight for our districts and empower those who have long been forgotten.
“I am honoured to have the congresswoman’s Courage to Change in our corner, and it will be the honour of my life to bring the people alongside me to Washington.”
Morse has also been defended by the LGBT+ Victory Fund, which said attacks on the candidate deployed anti-gay tropes – such as the repeated use of the word “teenagers”, obscuring the fact that everyone involved is above the age of consent and “evoking homophobic stereotypes of gay men as paedophiles”.
Attacks against Democratic challenger continue.
Despite the unravelling of the allegations against Morse, Victory Fund reports that some political operatives have continued to capitalise on the issue to attack the candidate.
According to the group, “multiple sources [have] reported receiving phone calls from interviewers conducting a push poll, where recipients were asked if they would still support Morse if he had sent sexually explicit emails to college-aged students.”
Meanwhile, enigmatic Texas-based group A Case for Women has “launched a paid Facebook campaign accusing Morse of being ‘predatory’ and urged people to contact them with accusations against Morse”.
Sean Meloy of Victory Fund said: “This push poll and these digital ads are the latest in a series of orchestrated political attacks meant to weaponise Alex’s sexuality and appeal to a homophobic narrative around the sex lives of LGBT+ people.
“It is evident that those involved in this plot planned to unleash these homophobic forces and setup a campaign of slander as ballots hit mailboxes. While the lies and coverups are being exposed, primary day is just [days] away and the attacks continue, just as the perpetrators intended.
“It is essential that voters in the 1st Congressional District learn the source or sources of these attacks so they can make an informed decision about who they want as their next member of Congress.”