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9 Aug, 2020 22:01

Abuse of power or social justice witch hunt? PC police come for gay mayor who had consensual sex with students

Abuse of power or social justice witch hunt? PC police come for gay mayor who had consensual sex with students

Left-wing college activists are up in arms after it emerged that a Massachusetts mayor used dating apps to sleep with students at a university he guest lectured at. While some deemed him "abusive," others say he did nothing wrong.

As mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, and lecturer at nearby University of Massachusetts Amherst, Alex Morse is a mainstay of progressive politics in the blue state. He’s a regular guest at Democratic events on campus, and got to know progressive activists at the college well.

However, the College Democrats of Massachusetts claim he got to know some students a little too well. The group disinvited Morse from their events on Sunday, claiming that the mayor “abused his power for sexual relationships” with students. Morse, they said, would contact students on social media and on dating apps like Grindr and Tinder, pursuing them for sexual encounters.

These encounters aren’t denied by Morse, who told local media that he knew his lovers were students. However, although the encounters were consensual, the College Democrats claim that his position of power as a mayor and lecturer rendered that consent irrelevant.

“Where such a lopsided power dynamic exists, consent becomes complicated,” read a statement from the group.

UMass Amherst said on Saturday that it will investigate claims that Morse’s actions violated sex discrimination laws. However, it is not clear if any of the students Morse slept with actually took any of his own classes, which would lend weight to the ‘abuse of power’ argument, given that he would be responsible for their grades and tuition. The university has no plans to rehire Morse to teach the government and politics course he lectured between 2014 and 2019.

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Amid the controversy, a number of prominent media voices stepped forward to defend Morse. Journalist Michael Tracey called the mayor’s critics a “bunch of whiny babies,” due to the fully consensual nature of his supposed “abuse.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald compared certain factions of the modern social justice movement to the ‘Moral Majority,’ a Christian Right group led by Baptist minister Jerry Falwell that opposed so-called “anti-family” messages in the media and campaigned against gay rights.

“If he hooked up with a 20-year-old plumber nobody would rightly care,” author Ryan Grim added. “But they’re a student so they have to be protected by the purity police. Ridiculous.”

Former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was also a mayor in his 30s when his husband Chasten Glezman was a student in his 20s, Greenwald pointed out, quipping “solidarity with Chasten, a survivor.” 

Still, others online insisted that Morse's behavior was unacceptable because of the apparent power dynamic, and not the age difference.

Morse himself initially issued something of an apology, pointing out the consenual nature of the relationships, but also promising to be “cognizant of my position of power.” However, he later told Politico that he “will not apologize for living life out of the closet, for going on dates and having consensual conversations.”

Morse is running for Congress and will face off against 32-year incumbent and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal for the Democratic nomination in September. Neal is a donor to the College Democrats of Massachusetts, and while Morse didn’t accuse him of orchestrating the campaign against him, he did say that Neal would likely “be eager to twist this into something it’s not to score political points.”

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