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.
“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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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