The LGBTQ Victory Fund has denounced accusations of inappropriate behavior lodged against Alex Morse, an openly gay politician running for Congress in Massachusetts.
Late last week, student leaders from the UMass Amherst College Democrats went public with vague allegations of misconduct between Morse—the longtime mayor of Holyoke and a lecturer at UMass Amherst—and students.
"We have heard countless stories of Morse adding students to his ‘Close Friends Story’ and DMing members of College Democrats on Instagram in a way that makes these students feel pressured to respond due to his status," the group wrote, according to the Daily Collegian. None of the students who felt Morse had used "his position of power for romantic or sexual gain" were named.
The accusations were publicized on Friday, August 7, mere weeks before Morse's primary election. As NewNowNext reported earlier this month, Morse, a 31-year-old Democrat, already faces an uphill battle: He's taking on incumbent Rep. Richard Neal, who has represented Massachusetts's 1st congressional district since 2012. The convenient timing caused many, including the Victory Fund, which had already endorsed Morse's campaign, to question the accusations' validity.
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.
The plot thickened further come Tuesday, August 11, when The Intercept shared new information that suggested the allegations were an engineered plan to sabotage Morse's campaign. According to the outlet, Timothy Ennis, one of the College Democrats' student leaders, was a self-professed "Neal stan." Ennis also said he hoped to intern for Neal's office and shared screenshots of non-explicit conversations a peer had had with Morse over Instagram DMs.
"This will sink his campaign," Ennis told the group, according to The Intercept.
Given the new information, the Victory Fund doubled down on its endorsement of Morse's campaign. The advocacy group, which works to get LGBTQ candidates elected nationwide, also celebrated news that Massachusetts Democratic Party chair Gus Bickford would be investigating the incident:
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. 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 ten months later—literally as ballots dropped in voters’ mailboxes—and motivated by hopes of a future political career with Alex’s opponent. 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.
While these allegations appear to be a political stunt, it is important to underscore how damaging lies can be to the fact that most sexual harassment allegations are true. We must ensure students and all people have safe ways to report cases of sexual harassment and that their cases are taken seriously and fully investigated.
Julian Cyr, another out politician from Massachusetts, also spoke out in support of Morse. "It takes a lot to run for public office especially when you’re #LGBTQ," Cyr tweeted. "Vague and unsourced allegations that traffic in dangerous stereotypes have a chilling effect on the willingness of queer candidates to run and serve."
On Twitter, Morse issued a statement addressing the allegations. He categorically denied ever having "a non-consensual sexual encounter" with anyone and apologized for making any students uncomfortable.
"I continue this campaign mindful of the fact that my personal life—and my consensual sexual activity—will be subject to scrutiny and fixation that are all too familiar to other members of the LGBTQ community," Morse wrote. "I am also mindful of the fact that there are people holding onto power today who themselves have acted in dishonorable ways in their personal lives. I say this not to shirk responsibility for having made anyone uncomfortable. I am simply highlighting the fact that I am being held to a different standard, one deeply connected to a history of surveilling the sex lives of people like me."