A national LGBTQ political organization has condemned a Republican running for Congress for using an alleged “homophobic dog whistle” against U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.).
The organization called out Matt Mowers for alleging in a debate that Pappas dated Vann Bentley, a former corporate lobbyist for Amazon, at a time when the congressman was in a position to vote on bills that the Internet shipping giant wanted to see passed. He said Pappas should have disclosed his relationship.
Pappas responded that the claim was false, and that it is Mowers who has been profiting from lobbying, calling Mowers’ insinuations “outrageous.”
“Matt Mowers is somebody who worked for the Trump administration. He left and cashed in on his relationships from that administration,” Pappas said. “I’ve read your financial disclosures, Matt. You get paid by the big drug companies. You get paid by DC lobbying firms. You’re representing their interests and not the interests of the people of New Hampshire. And to go after me personally like this is really disgusting, Matt, and there’s no place for that on this debate stage.”
He later released a statement calling Mowers’ allegations “despicable,” according to the Manchester-based ABC affiliate WMUR.
“Members of the LGBTQ+ community have always been held to a different standard when running for office, and Mr. Mowers’ baseless attacks perpetuate those same harmful lines of attack,” Pappas said. “New Hampshire voters saw gutter politics at their worst tonight, but true Granite Staters know that hate has no place in our state.”
Mowers contended in an interview after the debate that the issue was valid.
“I don’t care who the congressman dates. I really don’t,” Mowers said. “What I care about is whether he was transparent and truthful about why he was casting votes the way he did.”
LGBTQ Victory Fund, which is backing Pappas in his re-election bid, claimed that Mowers’ comments were a “dog whistle” meant to highlight Pappas’ sexual orientation — a common tactic employed against LGBTQ candidates for office.
See also: Republicans accused of homophobia in Michigan congressional race, flirting with QAnon conspiracy theories in others
The organization also raised questions about the timing of Mowers’ attack, noting that it occurred hours after Pappas and health care advocates held a press conference claiming that Mowers, a former State Department official, was also paid as a consultant for at least two big pharmaceutical companies, and that he filed an illegible financial disclosure form in an attempt to hide that professional relationship. Those charges are the basis for a complaint that was filed with the U.S. House Ethics Committee against Mowers.
Mowers’ campaign has denied any wrongdoing, telling WMUR that the disclosure was “filed in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of the law.”
“Matt Mowers proudly accepted Donald Trump’s endorsement and now he is proudly following the Trump political playbook as well — using lies and dog whistles to distract voters from the issues that matter,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Matt knew he wanted voters to focus on Chris’ sexual orientation and his absurd accusation during the debate was a desperate attempt to do just that.”
“With all the issues and challenges facing New Hampshire and our country, Matt is using the final days of the campaign to talk about and tweet about the dating life of his out gay opponent,” Parker added. “His politics of distraction and division — without regard for the truth — is a Trumpian tactic Matt learned well while part of the Trump administration.”
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