College Democrats issue grovelling apology for role in ‘homophobic smear’ campaign against gay candidate Alex Morse

Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke

A college Democratic group has apologised to primary candidate Alex Morse for its role in perpetrating an alleged homophobic smear campaign against him.

Morse, a progressive challenger hoping to unseat centre-left Democratic congressman Richard Neal, faced a scandal earlier this month (7 August) when three College Democrats group accused him of improperly pursuing sexual relationships through Grindr and Tinder with 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 some College Democrats members 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 leaked letter that first detailed allegations against Morse.

College Democrats ‘deeply sorry’ for smears.

In the wake of the scandal, leaders from the UMass Amherst Democrats executive board have issued an apology for signing onto the letter, while denying knowledge of any collusion.

The apology, which Morse shared with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, states: “We want to tell you that we are deeply sorry for the distress that the public reaction to the letter must have caused you.

“We did not intend for the contents of the letter to become public. However, we should have realised that the language of the letter was careless and played into homophobic stereotypes that have been used to oppress gay men in politics.

“We understand that no apology of ours can make up for the homophobic attacks you have suffered as a result of our actions; nonetheless, we wish to apologise. We wish you the best of luck in your campaign.”

Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke campaigns ahead of the September 1 primaries,

Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke campaigns ahead of the September 1 primaries (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The group stressed that “the majority of our board members agreed to sign on in good faith” and that it was “blindsided by the allegations of collusion”, insisting “none of us [were] aware of those conversations prior to their publication”.

In a letter to its members, the UMass Amherst Democrats leaders added: “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. We wish Alex Morse the best of luck in his campaign and political career.”

Shadowy groups still targeting Alex Morse ahead of September primary.

Despite the unravelling of the allegations against Morse, opponents have continued to capitalise on them.

With just days to go until the primary, a TV ad put out by a group calling itself ‘American Working Families’ states: “Now Alex Morse admits to sexual relationships with college students – even while he was a university lecturer. Alex Morse, terrible judgment, we don’t need in Congress.”

Meanwhile, LGBT+ Victory Fund has reported push-polling in the district, with recipients “asked if they would still support Morse if he had sent sexually explicit emails to college-aged students.”

Enigmatic Texas-based group ‘A Case for Women’ also “launched a paid Facebook campaign accusing Morse of being ‘predatory’ and urged people to contact them with accusations against Morse”, Victory Fund said.

Morse’s primary opponent Richard Neal has denied any involvement in the attacks.

In an interview with Jacobin, Morse said of the attacks: “I think it’s incredibly dangerous to our democracy, and that it has a chilling effect for young people, queer people, single people, basically telling us we can’t or shouldn’t run for office.

“I think it’s quite disgusting and a sad state of affairs that even in what people consider left-leaning liberal Massachusetts, that establishment Democrats and people who benefit from the status quo will almost stop at nothing to retain power. It’s exactly what people hate about politics, and it’s why people don’t participate and don’t run for office.

“I’m grateful that information and evidence of the coordination was made public so soon after the initial allegations. But I think it’s certainly a lesson for all folks involved in this process about how to examine these types of issues.”