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Exclusive: Bruning Follows Teens on Twitter too

By   /   April 4, 2012  /   26 Comments

U.S. Senate candidate Jon Bruning accused his opponent Don Stenberg of trying to follow his 14-year-old daughter on Twitter — saying that was “weird” and “creepy” — but a review of his own Twitter account shows Bruning follows at least two teenage girls and a half dozen female college students.

Bruning made national headlines Tuesday night when he accused Stenberg of trying to “follow” his 14-year-old daughter on Twitter during the first debate among Republicans in the U.S. Senate race. Bruning is Nebraska’s attorney general; Stenberg is state treasurer. They are the top contenders to win the Republican nomination in the May 15 primary election.

However, Bruning follows several young women, a teenage friend of his daughter’s and one 16-year-old girl who describes herself as a homeschooled girl who “loves her country.” Coincidentally, the 16-year-old girl also is followed by Stenberg — illustrating how political campaigns search out people to follow on Twitter in an attempt to boost their number of Twitter followers. Twitter is a social networking tool on the Internet in which people can send and read other people’s 140-character messages, or Tweets. It has become a staple of political campaigns, as candidates attempt to attract a large number of followers to get their message out. Often people or campaigns follow lots of people in an attempt to get them to follow back.

Nebraska Watchdog asked Bruning’s press secretary, Natalie Krings, about the teenagers and young women Bruning’s official campaign Twitter account is “following.” She asked whether those girls and women were following Bruning.

“I think it makes a difference,” she said. “They probably were already following the attorney general.”

She said she would check into the matter and get back to Nebraska Watchdog, but never did. Some of the young women do follow Bruning; others’ Twitter profiles are locked, hiding that information.

Bruning implied Stenberg had nefarious motives for allegedly trying to follow his daughter on Twitter.

“I’d like to know why does a 62-year-old man want to follow a 14-year-old girl on Twitter,” he said during the debate. “I’d really like to know. She said, ‘Dad that’s kinda creepy.’

Stenberg turned red and admitted he doesn’t manage the Twitter account; his campaign manager, Dan Parsons, does. Parsons said he was not aware that the campaign had made a request to follow Bruning’s daughter. Unlike most Twitter accounts, hers is locked, meaning people must get her permission to follow her Tweets.

Parsons said the campaign has an automated system that searches for words like “Republican” and “pro-life” to find people on Twitter who might support and follow Stenberg. He acknowledged Wednesday that the automated program also searched for “Stenberg” and “Bruning” and automatically followed (or asked permission to follow) those people.

Overall, he believes Bruning’s decision to malign Stenberg’s character with such an allegation was a “net negative” because Stenberg received a tremendous outpouring of support – from phone calls to contributions – today.

“People are outraged that he would stoop this low to try to impugn the character of Don Stenberg,” he said.

Reported by Deena Winter, deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

By: TwitterButtons.com

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Deena Winter has been a journalist for over 20 years, writing stories for the Northwood Gleaner, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press, Denver Post and Lincoln Journal Star before joining Watchdog.

  • watchdogfan

    Here you go people, I told you he does the same thing. He so thinks he is above being caught in his lies. As I have said, eventually the truth comes out. Peeling the layers of deceit.

  • ricky

    Who comes across creepy here is AG Bruning, bringing up cyber stalking out of the blue.

    The AG is obsessed about something and it’s real spooky.

    Every day goes by Bob Kerrey looks better and better.

    ricky from omaha

  • Terri Lane

    A “Tremendous outpouring of support” for Don is probably 2 phone calls and $14 in contributions.

  • Seriously?

    Oh now Ricky…Nobody’s written a piece on Bob’s account. Yet. And you KNOW he has staff right now scrutinizing every Twitter handle they’re following back to make sure they can’t find one single 14 year old girl LOL

  • Nice Try Deena

    There’s a huge difference here, Deena, but nice try at slander #500 on the Bruning campaign. Don was trying to use Bruning’s kids somehow against Bruning. That’s it. The bottom line. Don is a win-at-all-costs guy, and Nebraska knows it.

  • Lona Ferguson

    I truly wonder why news people have to distort the truth. Do you not have enough to do but to stir trouble for people? The point that was made about the twitter account of our AG’s daughter was very clear, Don Stenberg or his campaign asked to follow her on twitter. This account is like any other 14 year old’s and it is blocked. I would imagine that the parent Jon Bruning inspects his own daughter’s account that is for friends and family. All that was wanted by Don Stenberg’s team was to find some personal thing that could be used against Jon Bruning’s campaign…..she is 14 and the fact that they did this is creepy. I am disappointed over this and more disappointed in the distortion that the press has taken over the subject. AG Bruning has worked diligently to protect our youth’s vulnerability on the net and even has a television message to parents and the youth about this. The people of Nebraska all know that our AG has taken special measures to protect children. Treasurer Don Stenberg was allowed to respond and he said the matter would be handled. By the way, you can not follow a blocked account without permission, my concern…what news media can we follow that reports the truth and not an exaggeration of something just to get comments?

  • watchdogfan

    Lona, If you are to defend Bruning about this, what say you about his very team doing the same thing. Do you find that just as creepy? Do you honestly believe that Bruning’s team is not trying to dig up dirt on his opponents? If by chance one of the other candidates has some skeletons in their closets, his team will reveal it in a heartbeat. Honestly, I think a person should run their campaign on their own merit. However, if you have no merit or can’t run an honest campaign I guess I see why Bruning has to do what he does.

  • watchdogfan

    Lona, I apoligize my comment was to Nice Try Deena.

  • Fletch

    I think there’s a distinct difference between having random followers and following random people, vs. following the 14-year old of an opponent in a race. I follow people (not any teenagers that I know of), and people follow me. I have no idea who all the people are that follow me.

  • Terri Lane

    None of these people are Stenberg’s underage children. Its a totally different situation.

  • Clive

    I don’t understand why anyone would spend time to write such a stupid story. Is this actually what qualifies for news at Nebraskawatchdog? Seriously! Candidates kids should be off limits, I don’t buy the search engine comment from Dan Parsons either, the truth is they were digging and got caught.

  • Brian T.Osborn

    In most cases there is NOTHING in a twitter ID that identifies the owner’s name or age. If Jon Bruning hasn’t taught his daughter to use a pseudonym when playing on the interenet, then maybe he needs to send her one of his taxpayer-funded, four-color-glossy mailers featuring a HUGE photo of himself, his name in gigantic letters, and down in the corner – in the tiniest sized font possible – a message about keeping kids safe on the internet.

    Bruning is just tossing monkey poop at Stenberg and hoping that it sticks. The problem is, he got caught with most of it still on his own hands.

  • NebRepub

    Just wanted to clarify one thing listed above. Don Stenberg is a “Can’t win at all Costs” candidate.

    That’s the trouble with Don. He is a perpetual candidate. You can only lose so many senate races before people lose faith that you can win.

  • Dani

    Using search engines is a very valid tool, and it was used. How do we not know that Jon’s daughter was following Don at one time to get dirt on him?

    I find it creepy that Jon tried to paint Don in a negative light. There are children who are truly victims of cyber stalking and pedophilia…Jon bruning just made a mockery of it by trying to use it as a political tool.

  • Outside The Box

    You know what they say about glass houses, Jon?

    You should only cast stones if you co-purchased said glass house with Nelnet executives for your weekend recreational enjoyment.

  • Paula

    I’m popping the popcorn!

  • Sam Fischer

    you will NEVER see Deb Fischer in this tweeter fiasco because in Valetine passes messages via tin can and string

  • ricky

    Does AG Bruning follow Rocky the Raccoon on twitter?

  • six dollar parker

    The twitterers are twits

  • FramingItRight

    So, do people understand that ‘following’ someone on Twitter does not imply that they are actually following little girls around in this physical (as opposed to virtual) world? I ask only because I’m afraid the tone of the conversation is treating the two ‘infractions’ with equal prejudice.

    People who enjoy or presume a potential benefit in pursuing little girls is sick. The ones who do it on Twitter are either 1) other little girls or 2) politicians trying to figure this whole Twitter thing out.

  • “Comely Lobbyist” Redux

    OMG…will candidates never learn. No, I guess not.

    If State Senator Deb Fischer – you go, girl – wins the GOP nomination, without question, her victory can be tied to this Twitter insanity.

    Why, with all the critical issues facing our country , would A.G. Bruning bring up such a patently incendiary, inane question?

    It’s simply Shakespearean in that this damage is self-inflicted. Methinks he should apologize. Pronto.

    RWP said it best on another forum: this charge against Stenberg is vile and indisputably will badly backfire on Bruning’s campaign.

  • http://www.indianist.com/what-is-cyberstalking-and-how-to-protect-your-child/ Vimala Rani

    It is necessary for every parent to learn what is cyberstalking its impact on your child and how to protect him/her from Cyber harassement

  • watchdogfan

    Redux, I agree that Bruning’s anctics will backfire also. I was visiting with some die-hard Republicans the other night. By that, I mean it doesn’t seem to matter what their platform is as long as they are republican. These gentlemen were even appalled by what Bruning’s camp did. They were backing Bruning. Not any more. They seem to like the way Deb Fisher is running her campaign, which would be respectful and mudslinging. Of course, that made my day since I am of the opinion as long as Bruning doesn’t get elected I will take my chances with anybody else. Republican or Democrat

  • watchdogfan

    Sorry I forgot the word no. No mudslinging!

  • Kuhl

    To use your own words “Thats kinda creepy” John. Bruning has lost my support. To me, he has proven he will take any issue and expand it to fit his agenda. NOT what we need in our representatives. I can’t support Stenberg because of his past record either. Deb Fischer has a chance to bring the party together now. I certainly hope she does so. We can’t have these egotisitcal windbags in power any more.

  • Pingback: Stenberg, Bruning Square off in Second Debate Tonight

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