The campaign of Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat fighting a spirited progressive challenge from Holyoke, Massachusetts, Mayor Alex Morse, called for a pro-Neal group to take down an advertisement using a politically motivated smear to attack Morse.
The 30-second TV ad, funded by American Working Families, a super PAC funded by labor unions and health care industry groups spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to reelect Neal, begins by hitting Morse for a number of alleged failures that Neal himself has brought up.
Neal, 71, has, among other things, faulted Morse for the state’s takeover of Holyoke’s schools under his watch and a “police brutality” incident in which city cops beat a 12-year-old boy nearly unconscious.
The ad closes, though, by invoking a scandal that broke in early August that, it subsequently became clear, was at least partly the work of a college student plotting to ingratiate himself with Neal by accusing Morse of abusing his power to have sexual relationships with male college students.
Now Alex Morse admits to sexual relationships with college students even while he was a university lecturer, the ad says. Alex Morse, terrible judgment, we don’t need in Congress.
Although there was never a specific allegation of misconduct beyond Morse making some students feel uncomfortable, he has apologized for any hurt he caused while also defending his right to have consenting relationships with adults.
Morse has also said that in keeping with university policy, he never had “relations” with any of the students he taught.
Richard Neal has repeatedly said that he had nothing to do with the effort to smear Morse, which LGBTQ community advocates believe exploited homophobic tropes about gay men.
“Morse, 31, is Holyoke’s first-ever openly gay mayor”.
Our campaign has been consistent: There is no place for homophobia in our society, and Richie condemns it, Richard Neal campaign manager Peter Panos said in a statement to HuffPost.
Voters will make a choice in this race based on both candidates’ records and issues that actually affect the district. The outside group should take this ad down.
The super PAC preemptively announced that it would be withdrawing the ad before the Richard Neal campaign’s statement. American Working Families said it accidentally sent an uncorrected version of the ad to TV stations.
Richard Neal’s campaign followed up with HuffPost with a statement approving of the super PAC’s comments.
This ad should not have been aired, and we are glad it’s been taken down, Panos said.
Even if the network TV stations in the Springfield-Holyoke media market take down the ad immediately, viewer data showed that it already reached more than 30,000 viewers. It has aired 10 times as of Saturday afternoon.
A representative from the CBS affiliate, WSHM-LD, told HuffPost he did not know if the ad had been removed.
HuffPost reached out to sales departments for local affiliates of NBC and The CW and was awaiting a response.