On Wednesday, we learned that New Jersey's Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Cory Booker, exchanges private Twitter messages with strippers. Or at least one stripper, Lynsie Lee of Portland, Ore. If the messages are private, how do we know that? Lee told us, on Twitter, back in March:
BuzzFeed's Benny Johnson uncovered that little nugget, and walked us through what prompted Lee to post the information. Warning: Johnson's very BuzzFeed-y post features NSFW photos of Lee. For a clean version of the story, try Joe Coscarelli's at New York, or the writeup in Lee's hometown newspaper, The Oregonian.
Or any other news sources that picked up on the story. Michael Barbaro at The New York Times makes the obvious comparison to another Twitter-obsessed politician:
Mayor Cory A. Booker has a high schooler's affinity for Twitter, reveling in its ceaseless flow of affirmation and infinite space for self-promotion.... Even as many politicians have adopted a hyperdisciplined approach to social media, or handed over their official Twitter accounts to image-conscious aides in the wake of online scandals involving the likes of Anthony D. Weiner, a former Democratic congressman, Mr. Booker's fingers seem to rarely stray from the keyboard. [New York Times]
There are some valid grounds for this comparison. Weiner and Booker are both young Democrats who used Twitter very often and very effectively while in public office. Both have exchanged private messages with young women prone to taking their clothes off, and, in both cases, we know this because the women revealed the correspondence. Here's National Republican Senatorial Committee strategist Brad Dayspring:
— Brad Dayspring (@BDayspring) September 25, 2013
But the comparisons between Weiner and Booker really stop there.
Weiner sent sexually explicit text messages to women, after resigning from Congress for tweeting photos of his crotch to women. His post-Congress exchanges with Sydney Leathers did a lot to sink his once-promising bid to be New York City's next mayor. Leathers returned the favor by making a sex tape and crashing Weiner's election-night party. Weiner's public response to these revelations was nothing short of disastrous.
Booker, on the other hand, sent Lee a message that "could be out of a Victorian courtship primer," as Mediate's Tommy Christopher puts it. If there's more than that one message, we don't know about it and Lee isn't saying. She does give this context to BuzzFeed, however: Booker "was just flattering me. It began with me sending an actual tweet saying that the West Coast loved him, especially me. So he replied with that just to flatter me :)"
Slate's David Weigel:
"Unmarried Cory Booker sends non-sexual DM to stripper" might actually be the lamest click bait scandal of all time. Or this week.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) September 26, 2013
Here's the rest of the story, such as it is: Booker and Lee apparently connected because they are both in the same Twitter-themed movie, Follow Friday: The Film — along with BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith. Booker is comfortably ahead of his Republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, in the polls, and Lonegan — who has previously questioned Booker's manliness — has no comment on this story. And to understand Booker's pitch-perfect response, you have to know that Lee works at a strip club called Casa Diablo, which bills itself as the world's first vegan strip club.
Here's the statement from Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis:
I think it's pretty well known that the mayor talks with people from all walks of life on Twitter. There have been a couple of stories about that over the years. Really, the most shocking part of this story was learning there is a vegan strip club in Portland.
And here's Booker's response, via (naturally) Twitter:
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) September 25, 2013
There are some winners in the story: Casa Diablo and Erin Faulk's Twitter movie, certainly, and probably Lee, who told her (newly expanded) Twitter following that she doesn't "want 15min of fame, not this way. I want it through my nudes duh." BuzzFeed got something of a scoop, and probably earned a lot of traffic for it.
But I'm not sure there are any losers. Booker's Senate race is tightening, but mildly flirtatious banter with a topless dancer who lives 3,000 miles away isn't going to sink him. And Lonegan may pick up some support among voters who hate strippers or vegans, but at this point anything (non-scandalous) that keeps the attention focused on Booker and his social-media prowess probably hurts Lonegan more than it helps.
Booker and Lonegan face off in a special election October 16.