Officials from the Massachusetts Democratic Party, including both the chairman and the executive director, reportedly helped coordinate a recent attack on gay congressional Alex Morse, involving unsubstantiated allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.
In its latest bombshell story about the matter, published Friday, the Intercept reported it is “undeniable … that the state Democratic party was behind the emergence of the allegations,” citing five sources within the state party and connected to the College Democrats of Massachusetts (CDMA), a review of messages between party leadership and the leadership of the CDMA, and call records obtained by reporters.
“The documents show that the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s executive director Veronica Martinez and chair Gus Bickford connected the students with attorneys, among them, the powerful state party figure and attorney Jim Roosevelt, who worked with the college group on a letter alleging Morse behaved inappropriately,” the Intercept reported. “A [Democratic State Committee] member told The Intercept that in their view, the different roles Martinez, Bickford, and Roosevelt played in the development and release of the CDMA letter—as well as the ensuing attempts to cover up their involvement after the fact—make the state party’s hostility to Morse, a young gay man, hard to ignore. ‘As a DSC member, it’s pretty angering that party resources and party staff were put into an effort to attack a gay candidate,’ the member said. ‘I don’t know how we can have any trust with the LGTBQ community going forward.'”
Roosevelt, the attorney, has twice contributed money to the campaign of Morse’s opponent, longtime Democratic Congressman Richard Neal. Roosevelt has also fought back against the progressive wing of the party, and Morse is challenging Neal from the left.
Previously, the Intercept reported that the former president of the College Democrats chapter at UMass Amherst vowed last year to “sink” Morse’s campaign so he could get a job working for Neal.
Neal has denied any involvement in the allegations against Morse. However, a senior Neal staffer said privately earlier this year that the congressman wasn’t worried about the primary challenge from Morse “because the young mayor was known to have slept with college students and that information would emerge at the right time,” according to the Intercept.
As we noted Thursday, party chair Bickford reportedly said he plans an investigation into the conduct of the students behind the allegations. However, it now appears that any investigation should be independent, given that party officials including Bickford were involved.
On Thursday, the president of the College Democrats of Massachusetts, Hayley Fleming, said the group’s letter setting forth the anonymous, inflammatory allegations against Morse was written “on the advice of legal counsel” — but Fleming didn’t name names.
“We condemn all homophobic attacks that have followed the article,” Fleming wrote in a message to members, referring to The Daily Collegian’s initial report about the letter. “While we believe that the concerns expressed by students were genuine, those concerns have been used to paint Morse in a way that plays into inappropriate stereotypes. That is unacceptable, and we want to make clear that we in no way condone that narrative or those attacks. I sincerely apologize for the harm that these homophobic responses have caused Morse and the greater LGBTQ+ community, and I apologize for the role we played in that harm.”
Meanwhile, Morse’s campaign announced Friday it had its best fundraising week ever in the wake of the allegations.
“Like many, I believe it’s highly suspicious that this story emerged three weeks before the primary election, as we’re on the verge of defeating one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington,” Morse said during a virtual news conference on Thursday. “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 and Neal are scheduled to debate on Monday.