A 21-year-old intern for the Mike Michaud campaign was suspended indefinitely Tuesday after the Maine Republican Party seized on a series of vulgar tweets by the college student.
Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorenson lambasted the Michaud campaign for the tweets of Ben Gagnon, a Wheaton College student from Pownal who volunteers doing data entry for the U.S. Congressman’s gubernatorial campaign.
Gagnon, in an apparent attempt to preempt the GOP’s criticism, posted an image collage of the tweets in question late Monday, along with a message:
“BREAKING NEWS,” Gagnon tweeted. “Sometimes I tweet things that some may find inappropriate. #TripDownMemoryLane #LetsMoveOn.”
The GOP redistributed the collage of messages and in a statement, demanded that Michaud’s campaign respond and denounce the language and fire the person responsible.
The tweets, posted to Gagnon’s personal Twitter account, include sexual statements, obscenity-laden quotes from TV and movies, and references to illegal drugs and bodily functions. In addition to the sporadic messages that the GOP found offensive, Gagnon’s feed in other places looked like that of many other people his age, albeit with a definitive political bent. Family photos, messages to friends and dispatches from the Portland restaurant where he waits tables are interspersed with partisan messages, photos and links to news stories.
In a statement to the Press Herald announcing Gagnon’s suspension, Michaud’s campaign manager, Matt McTighe, denounced the tweets, and referred to Gagnon only as “this young person,” and “the intern.”
“The language used in this young person’s Tweets cannot be defended and do not represent the view of the campaign,” McTighe wrote. “We will provide increased training for volunteers and interns on the campaign to ensure that they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner whether in person or online. We will also review our online policy for volunteers.”
The statement also made a brief attempt to to turn the narrative around, attacking LePage for using inappropriate language himself.
For its part, the Maine GOP also tried to broaden the attack, and attempted to link the intern’s language to other dust-ups about Michaud’s staff, first in 1993 when Michaud was Democratic chair of the state redistricting commission, and then in 2002, when Michaud was a state senator.