Rick Shaftan (pictured left), a senior aide and strategist with GOP New Jersey Senate hopeful Steve Lonegan‘s campaign, let loose with a profanity-laced, homophobic tirade against Democratic New Jersey Senate hopeful Cory Booker (pictured right), that cost him his job, reports New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger.
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During a shockingly explicit interview with Talking Points Memo, Shaftan claimed that Lonegan is surging in the polls — a statement that is an exercise in conservative revisionism with Booker holding on to a 12-point lead with only a week to go before the October 16 special election — because of continued speculations about Booker’s sexuality and his respectful exchange with a stripper in a private Twitter exchange.
Yes, Shaftan found it “strange” that Booker was cordial to stripper Lynsie Lee. Instead of trafficking in political corruption and sexual exploitation, Booker said things to her “like what a gay guy would say.”
“It was just weird. I mean, to me, you know, hey, if he said, ‘Hey, you got really hot breasts man, I’d love to suck on them.’ Then like, yeah, cool. But like, he didn’t say that,” Shaftan explained. “It was like kind of like, I don’t know, it was like what a gay guy would say to a stripper. It’s the way he was talking to her. It’s just like like there was no sexual interest at all. I don’t know. To me, if I was single and you know like some stripper was tweeting me, I might take advantage of the perks of the office, you know?”
As previously reported by NewsOne, Booker and Lee, a stripper at vegan strip club Casa Diablo, became acquainted when they both appeared in Follow Friday: the film — a film about Twitter.
The deviant exchange (Republican speak for kind acknowledgement) that led Shaftan to lose all semblance of professionalism went a little something like this:
“And the East Coast loves you and by the East Coast, I mean me,” Booker wrote to Lee in a direct Twitter message.
“Well now I’m blushing :),” Lee replied.
“Its only fair,” wrote Booker.
In a statement to Buzzfeed, Lee admitted that the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey was simply being kind to her:
“He 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 :)”
Booker’s campaign responded with the hilarious, pitch-perfect response below:
“I think it’s pretty well known that the mayor talks with people from all walks of life on Twitter,” said Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis. “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.”
Read more from Shaftan’s career-ending TPM interview below:
Though Shaftan clearly has plenty to say about Booker’s conduct, he said Lonegan came up with most of the jabs they launched at Booker by himself.
“He’s a great candidate, man. You know when the candidate like says to you, ‘Rick, grow a pair of balls.’ I always like to hear that, because Steve, he wants to win,” said Shaftan. “He doesn’t personally attack Booker. It’s all based on fact and, you know, I mean the pedicures … it’s things (Booker) said. He’s the one who went to Hollywood and had the fundraiser, you know. It’s just like, you know, he talked about being gay or whatever. … It’s like, dude, you’re bringing all this s*it up yourself.”
“It’s like Gary Hart — follow me,” Shaftan said, comparing Booker’s comments about the speculation he’s gay to the time that Hart infamously responded to questions about his womanizing by challenging the press to tail him.
“Gary Hart was like on his way to the nomination and then you see this picture on the front of the National Enquirer. It’s like, holy shit what a f*cking idiot. … Like what are you thinking? … I’ve worked with people who like to have friends, girlfriends and shit, but they’ll never get photographed with them, you know? It’s like, they’re very discreet and professional, you know? You kind of know, but it’s not like sit on my lap, let me eat your pu**y while you’re sitting here,” Shaftan said.
Before he was fired, Shaftan told The Ledger that he “didn’t think [his profane statements] were newsworthy enough to write about. Trying to hold on to his job, he also said in a statement to TPM that he “shouldn’t be talking anymore.”
“I shouldn’t mouth off like that. It’s not representative of Lonegan, it’s representative of Rick Shaftan,” he said tail tucked firmly between his legs.
But it was too little, too late.
Though Lonegan had no choice but to fire Shaftan, the move is a hypocritical one in the face of his own homophobic insinuations about his opponent:
“It’s kind of weird. As a guy, I personally like being a guy,” Lonegan said in an interview with right-leaning website Newsmax. “I don’t know if you saw the stories last year. They’ve been out for quite a bit about how he likes to go out at three o’clock in the morning for a manicure and a pedicure.”I don’t like going out in the middle of the night, or any time of the day, for a manicure and pedicure. It was described as his peculiar fetish…I have a more peculiar fetish. I like a good Scotch and a cigar. That’s my fetish but we’ll just compare the two.”
As previously reported by NewsOne, Booker is accustomed to fielding questions about his sexuality and insists that the heightened interest doesn’t bother him at all:
“People who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.’” Booker said to the Washington Post.
The New Jersey Democratic Senate hopeful swiftly pounced on Shaftan’s statement, using them to indict Lonegan’s campaign:
“These comments are disgraceful, and demeaning, and beneath even the incredibly low bar set by the Lonegan campaign thus far. If you want insight into the kind of senator Mr. Lonegan would be, start here,” Booker campaign spokeswoman Silvia Alvarez said.
Indeed, Shaftan limboed right beneath that bar. The polls will tell what, if any, effect his statements have on Lonegan’s poll numbers.