CORNING, NY – Congressman Tom Reed’s campaign staff is making allegations of insults, harassment and threats via social media by those who oppose the Corning Republican’s reelection. However, his opponent and other Democrats are saying there was no harassment or threats and it’s actually the campaign staff who should be accused of harassment.
Examples of the alleged hostile posts, which appear to be coming from Facebook, were sent out to media in a Tom Reed for Congress press release Wednesday afternoon.
Reed is facing Democratic Challenger Tracy Mitrano in the 2018 General Election for New York’s 23rd Congressional District, located along the Southern Tier of the state and stretching from Chautauqua County in the west to Tompkins County in the east.
The insults and harassment appear to have come in the wake of a story from a week earlier involving Reed’s campaign manager, Nick Weinstein, confronting a Steuben County resident who took down an “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” campaign sign. The resident, Rev. Gary McCaslin from Painted Post, NY, was eventually charged with petty larceny.
Weinstein had confronted McCaslin on his own doorstep due to a tracking device that had been placed on the campaign sign and the Reed campaign recorded the encounter, posting it on Youtube afterward.
Following the story regarding the confrontation with McCaslin and his subsequent arrest, a photo of Weinstein was publicly posted on Facebook by an individual who was attending the July 14 Democratic Unity Rally in Olean, NY, with a caption that read:
“This is Nick Weinstein. He works for Tom Reed. He goes to all opposition rallies and films, hoping to get a clip that he can use for his ‘Extreme Ithaca Liberal’ website to embarrass us. Don’t be like Nick.”
The rally was reportedly hosted by a coalition of groups including McCaslin’s “Citizens for a Better Southern Tier” group.
As of July 18, the image had been shared more than 130 times and also received dozens of comments, some of which were insults aimed toward Weinstein and his appearance.
The Reed campaign also shared a screen capture of an apparent message sent directly to Weinstein on Facebook, in which the unidentified individual said “Your [sic] a piece of shit! Can’t wait to see you in public!!!”
The Reed campaign said that is a clear example of both harassment and a threat.
Congressman Reed did offer a comment regarding the hostile and insulting posts.
“As an elected official, I have come to accept all that goes with it. That unfortunately includes unfair, baseless personal attacks against me and my family,” said Tom Reed. “But to harass and threaten members of my staff is completely unacceptable. These actions are cruel, petty, and concerning, and reflect the extremism of our opposition. Such extremism must end.”
Weinstein also offered a statement.
“It was surprising to see such hateful rhetoric resulting from an event that was billed as a ‘Unity Rally.’ When my colleagues and I attend events, we are courteous even if we fundamentally disagree. We will continue to respectfully engage on the issues and look forward to working every day to earn the support of every voter in the 23rd Congressional District,” Weinstein said.
Meanwhile, Mitrano provided a statement to WRFA in response to the Reed campaign mentioning her in its release, saying they could find no evidence of harassment or threats.
“Tom Reed’s press release claims Mr. Weinstein has been threatened and harassed. We were relieved to find no evidence of that in the actual posts. There were some insults, which of course are protected by the First Amendment,” Mitrano Campaign spokesperson Claudia Wheatley said.
“When we read the whole thread under Mr. Weinstein’s photo, we were pleased to see that a member of our campaign posted a reminder that ‘It’s his right to attend our events and to record. He would like nothing more than for you to argue, harass, or record him, so that he can put it up on his Twitter to mock you. Let’s focus on Tracy’s message of bringing economic opportunity back to the district!’ We agree!” Wheatley added.
“This incident is a good reminder not to post anything online you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see, even in a private conversation. You never know who might be lurking,” Wheatley concluded.
Chautauqua County Democratic Committee Chair Norman Green called the media release “disturbing.”
“Those of us involved in politics in the southern tier know Weinstein as the ‘harasser-in-chief,'” Green said in his response. “Here in Chautauqua County Weinstein has arrogantly attempted to enter our own Democratic county dinner in Dunkirk and a Democratic straw poll we in the party sponsored earlier this year in nearby Randolph. With filming equipment, Weinstein and the Reed campaign did not identify themselves and attempted to sneak into private buildings where opposing candidates would be speaking in a lead up to the Democratic primary. Weinstein was asked to leave both times and verbally resisted, but eventually did leave. His sole purpose as the Reed man-on-the-scene was to harass Democratic candidates on behalf of the incumbent Congressman.”
Green said Weinstein has been involved with other operative actions intended to disrupt the democratic process of choosing a candidate to challenge Reed. Those activities include filing an Opportunity to Ballot petition relating to the Women’s Equality Party endorsement of Tracy Mitrano.
“The Reed campaign’s silliness of filing the petition was followed up by a mailing to all Women’s Equality Party voters in the NY23 asking those voters to write-in Tom Reed’s name or any one of the Democratic candidates also not listed on the ballot. The silly filing cost taxpayers across the district thousands of dollars in county government election expenses and in the end Tracy Mitrano received all of the votes. The purpose of Weinstein and Reed? Harass the voters,” Green surmised, adding, “It has to be a historic first for any candidate to send out a mailer that says vote for me or anyone else.”
Green also accuses Weinstein placing “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” signs next to the signs belong to candidates during the recent Democratic Primary campaign.
“The signs included tracking devices in case any candidate or their supporters wanted their campaigns distanced from such Tom Reed foolishness by moving them,” Green said.
“Tom Reed has one goal and that is to divide and inflame the voters. He does not want to engage on the issues. He instead prefers to call his opponents names and to send his ‘harasser-in-chief’ to any and every event. I would urge Tom Reed to stop these antics and start talking the issues,” concluded Green.