College Democrats at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst set a plan in motion last October they thought would damage the campaign of Alex Morse, a rising progressive star who was taking on incumbent Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). Part of the plan included connecting with Morse – an openly gay man – on dating apps to try to get him to say something that could be used against him during the campaign.
Last Friday, the student group sent a letter to Morse saying he was no longer welcome at their events. They then released the letter to the college newspaper and released a statement claiming Morse “sought out students that he met at our events privately on social media, in a manner widely understood by our generation to indicate intimacy.”
Despite claiming Morse reached out to students on social media after multiple “events,” they later had to clarify that he only attended one College Democrat event – at a local community college – after he declared his candidacy. They later told a reporter for the Huffington Post that he attended several events prior to his campaign, though Morse says he only reached out to a student after that single event, which took place in October 2019.
The Intercept obtained online communications among the College Democrats showing that it was after that event they hatched the plan to target Morse’s campaign. The student who led the effort – the group’s chief strategist and then-president Timothy Ennis – openly declared his hope to obtain an internship with Neal’s congressional office once he defeated Morse.
That fateful day on October 5, Morse and Neal appeared at an event hosted by the College Democrats. Ennis, then a student in Neal’s journalism class, introduced the congressman. Ennis claimed in online discussions with fellow College Democrats that Neal reached out to say he was impressed with the event. During the event, Morse was on a panel with Andrew Abramson, who would later become president of the College Democrats. The Intercept reported that Abramson and Morse had matched on Tinder (as in, they both indicated an interest) but never previously met.
After the event, Morse reached out to Abramson on Instagram, and the two had a casual conversation that Ennis would later claim could “sink [Morse’s] campaign.” For the record, the two allegedly damaging screenshots shared by Abramson contain the following exchange:
Abramson: “Thank you! Good to see you too.” [blushing emoji.]
Morse: “How’s the rest of your weekend?”
Abramson: “Pretty good I went home last night to surprise my mom for her birthday [how bout you]?”
Morse: “Aw that’s nice. How was that? I had an event to go to last night to speak, then had a wine tasting at a friends house. Now I’m in North Adams to march in a parade.”
Abramson shared these messages with his fellow College Democrats, saying, “Not overt but it’s very clear he’s not talking to me for no reason.” He added, “Also don’t mind me totally leading him on.”
Abramson continued to chat with Morse for several more weeks after he shared the screenshots with Ennis.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, Morse was accused of vague sexual misconduct. Nothing specific was lodged against him. The claims appeared to be that Morse, as a lecturer at the university, dated students – but not his own students – and reached out to College Democrats on social media “in a manner widely understood by our generation to indicate intimacy.” The screenshots above apparently show this “intimacy.”
UMass-Amherst forbids faculty from carrying on consensual sexual relationships with “any students or postdoctoral researchers they teach, advise or supervise.” To date, Morse has not been accused of sleeping with his own students.
Matt Taibbi reported that the College Democrats tried to use Morse’s position as evidence itself of a power imbalance, even though one of the students who was apparently affected by this imbalance didn’t even learn of it until after his relationship with Morse ended.
After the College Democrat story was published, Morse reached out to Abramson to apologize if he made the younger man feel uncomfortable. Abramson blocked Morse.
The student group denied Ennis’ ambitions to work for Neal were behind the letter against Morse. HuffPost reporter Daniel Marans reached out to the College Democrats and received answers to some questions, including claims that the letter “was not politically motivated.” The student group claimed to Marans that the letter “was written at the direct request of students who were personally made uncomfortable by the Mayor’s behavior.”
Morse has been the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, since 2011.
The Intercept, however, reported that this claim is untrue:
The implication that the letter was the collective work of the members of the chapter is false, however. It was written by leadership without input from the members, according to messages provided to The Intercept from the organization’s GroupMe chat. The day after the Daily Collegian published the letter, a member of leadership sent the following message: “Hello everyone. I’m sure some of you saw the article about Alex Morse and letter udems and other orgs sent to his campaign. I’m sure many of you are confused and even disappointed. If anybody needs support or wants to talk about it the udems eboard is here for you.”
After The Intercept story published, the Morse campaign sent out a press release suggesting a connection between the Neal campaign and the attacks against Morse. Kate Norton, a spokesperson for Neal’s campaign, told MassLive on Monday that the UMass-Amherst students were not working with the Neal campaign, but called the students who coordinated the dubious attack on Morse “courageous.”
“No. The College Democrats independently came forward, and our campaign commends these courageous students,” Norton said in response to Morse’s claim that the Neal campaign coordinated with the College Democrats.
In its press release sent Thursday, the Morse campaign bragged that it had raised $130,000 in a single day – the day The Intercept published its story about College Democrats working to harm Morse’s campaign.
“The campaign received upwards of $130,000 in contributions on Wednesday alone, fueled by supporters across the country who see this attack for what it is: a failed attempt to ruin the reputation of a bold, progressive challenger who has what it takes to beat Richie Neal, the recipient of more corporate money than any other Democrat in Congress,” the press release stated.
The $130,000 represents more than one quarter of what the Morse campaign has raised since July 1. The campaign also shared that an internal poll showed Morse 10 points behind Neal, but with 20% of voters still undecided.
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