In a moment worthy of Karl Rove, Nebraska Attorney General, Jon Bruning took time from a debate with his opponent, fellow Republican, Don Stenberg, to not-so-subtly accuse Stenberg of stalking Bruning’s 14-year-old daughter.
During an exchange on, ironically, negative campaigning and the Senate confirmation process, Bruning switched gears and said to his rival,
“Let me ask you this, Don,” Bruning said. “This Sunday, my daughter walks in, and she says, ‘Don Stenberg’s trying to follow me on Twitter.’ My daughter’s 14 years old. Now you tell me, I’d like to know, why does a 62-year-old man want to follow a 14-year-old girl on Twitter? I’d really like to know. She said, ‘Dad, that’s kind of creepy.’
A stunned Stenberg replied,
“Quite honestly, I don’t do my own Twitter,” he said. “Dan Parsons does it for me. We’ve got thousands and thousands of folks, and as soon as we get done here, I’ll call Dan and make sure that’s taken off. I don’t think it’s appropriate.”
Bruning replied: “Well, she’s 14, Don.”
Here’s the video:
Bruning is either using the sleaziest campaign method on the books or he vastly misunderstands the world of social networking, especially Twitter. First off, no one “tries” to follow anyone on Twitter. Twitter is like a blog that limits the user to 140 characters. Followers simply read those posts, which are public. They rarely interact with the user. If Stenberg had actually attempted to personally contact Bruner’s daughter, this would be a very different story, but even Bruner didn’t imply that.
As Stenberg mentioned, it’s highly unlikely that he would run his own Twitter account. That’s what staffers are for, and most likely, the staffer saw the name “Bruner” and hit the follow button.
Used safely, Twitter can be completely anonymous. It’s the obligation of a parent to monitor a child’s activity on the social networking site, but even beyond that, there are safety measures that can be taken to ensure a child’s safety and anonymity. If those measures are taken, it’s doubtful that his daughter’s age would have been part of the profile, making the accusation completely without merit. But in the meantime, the genie is out of the bottle. Unfortunately, it may now be up to Stenberg to prove that he’s not a pervert. And so it goes in the world of dirty politics.