By Shushannah Walshe
Cory Booker’s senatorial campaign is shrugging off revelations that the constantly-tweeting Newark mayor had Twitter exchanges, including direct messages, with a Portland, Ore., stripper.
The Twitter banter between the stripper, Lynsie Lee, who works at a vegan strip club called Caso Diablo, and Booker was first reported by Buzzfeed Wednesday.
At a news conference Thursday, Booker said he communicates with people who send “kindness” his way and he doesn’t “study peoples’ profile(s).”
“That’s really what this is, is me responding to people, which I do every single day,” he said. “And frankly, finally, I just have to say, it is all about just that, is about listening to people and engaging with people no matter what their profession.
“I’ve tweeted people back from all different backgrounds,” he added. “It’s not something I pay attention to. But when somebody’s kind to me, I often say thank you.”
Booker added that his Twitter behavior leads him to “talk to everybody.”
“It’s the way we should be in public life,” Booker said. “And casting judgment on folks because of what they do is unacceptable to me and I’m going to continue being me – this doesn’t change that at all – and continue talking to everybody. It’s what I do in Newark.”
Earlier Thursday, Booker’s campaign put out a statement saying, “Over the years, the mayor has used Twitter to efficiently direct city resources, learn about problems during disasters and communicate with supporters across the country.”
“In an era when nearly every moment in most public officials’ lives is scripted and controlled, the mayor remains accessible and engages with people,” said Kevin Griffis, Booker’s campaign spokesman. “Really, the most shocking thing about this story is the news that there’s a vegan strip club in Portland.”
Casa Diablo bills itself as the “world’s first vegan strip club,” and its tagline is “Portland’s hottest dancers, incredible vegan food.” Its menu includes burgers and burritos, but it is all meat-free.
Despite the fact that both Booker and Lee used social media, this is no Anthony Weiner situation. There are no raunchy photos or explicit messages, and Booker, 44, is single.
In the messages, Lee first tweeted Booker and said, ”if you’re ever POTUS I call dibs on First Lady.”
After another female Twitter user told Lee she has had her own private Twitter conversations with Booker, Lee posted her direct messages with Booker that she exchanged with him in February.
“And the East Coast loves you and by the East Coast, I mean me,” Booker wrote in the private direct message to Lee. She wrote back, “Well now I’m blushing,” and Booker responded: “Its only fair.”
Lee told ABC News’ Portland, Ore., affiliate KATU that if Booker “unfollowed” her she would be “very hurt.”
“If it hurts his campaign I will feel guilty, but I would want it to be for a viable reason, not for me just being a stripper,” Lee said. “That’s not a good reason for people to not vote for him because he was nice to a stripper. He’s been nice to everyone he’s ever tweeted to, so that’s their own fault if they hate strippers. It’s not his.”
Booker and Lee appeared in a movie together about Twitter called “Follow Friday the Film.” Although many politicians use social media cautiously, Booker constantly tweets with constituents and supporters on issues that range from snow removal and other city-related issues to thanking and communicating with supporters throughout the country.
Booker is running in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who passed away in June. He faces Steve Lonegan, a Republican former mayor of Bogota, N.J., next month. Booker has been leading Lonegan by wide margins, but a recent poll from Quinnipiac showed tightening, with Booker only leading Lonegan by 12 points – 53 percent to 41 percent.