Democratic political action committee American Working Families has pulled an ad criticizing gay congressional candidate Alex Morse after the ad was denounced as homophobic.
The ad referred to recent allegations of sexual impropriety on the part of Morse, who is running in Tuesday's Democratic primary against incumbent Richard Neal in the First Congressional District of Massachusetts.
The College Democrats of Massachusetts and two of its chapters said Morse used his power as mayor of Holyoke and part-time lecturer at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to have sexual and romantic relationships with students in the area. Morse has said he did have relationships with students he'd met on dating apps but that none of them were in his classes and that all the relationships were consensual. He apologized for any discomfort he'd caused.
The ad from American Working Families, which aired on television and online, mentioned Morse having "sexual relationships with college students," criticized his record as mayor, and said he is backed by outside special interests, The Hill reports. "Alex Morse, terrible judgment and a terrible record," it concluded.
American Working Families quickly pulled the ad and put out a statement Saturday via Twitter:
The group is a super PAC, which by law cannot contribute to or coordinate with candidates but can raise and spend unlimited money in campaigns. American Working Families has endorsed Neal, a veteran congressman and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, calling the challenge by Morse and progressive groups "a misguided waste of money." Morse has positioned himself as a progressive alternative to Neal, who he paints as out of touch with the district and too cozy with corporate donors, but American Working Families says Neal supports the kind of policies that benefit the district.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Morse, emailed The Advocate a comment from Senior Political Director Sean Meloy. Though the ad "supposedly was not intended to be aired, the fact that it was even created is shameful," Meloy said. "Voters -- and the LGBTQ community -- deserve better than false and homophobia-laced fear-mongering. It's past time to banish these tactics to the ash heap of history. And for those who are determined to deal in homophobic tropes, we stand ready to defend our LGBTQ candidates and ensure dirty tricks don't pay off in the future."
Morse's campaign offered no comment on the ad in response to an Advocate request. The Advocate is awaiting comment from Neal's campaign, which has previously denounced attempts to use the College Democrats' allegations to stoke homophobia.
Over the weekend the UMass-Amherst College Democrats chapter issued a statement saying its leadership had made mistakes in signing on to the state group's letter detailing the allegations and disinviting Morse from events, which it understood to be a private letter to Morse and never intended for public distribution.
"Although we never intended for the language of the letter to be scrutinized by anyone but Alex Morse, we realize now that the wording was careless and unwittingly played into homophobic stereotypes," the UMass-Amherst chapter's executive board said. "We are deeply sorry that Alex Morse has faced homophobic attacks as a result of our actions and that our decision has negatively impacted the LGBT community, including our own membership." The statewide group, for its part, has said it was raising legitimate concerns but condemned homophobic rhetoric arising from the situation.
There have been accusations that at least one College Democrats official was seeking to curry favor with Neal, and Neal has said his campaign had no role in the allegations regarding Morse. The Massachusetts Democratic Party plans to investigate the matter after the primary.