Newark Mayor Cory Booker is known for engaging in casual banter on Twitter with people from all walks of life, and one of those private exchanges with an exotic dancer was made public Wednesday.
And a Booker spokesman said the mayor doesn't regret it.
"It is obviously pretty innocuous and quite frankly there is nothing there," Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis said about the mayor's interaction with the stripper, Lynsie Lee.
Now before your mind starts racing, it does not appear to rise to the level of "Weinergate" – the salacious scandal involving former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was caught sending explicit pictures to a woman in Indiana.
But there are similarities: when the stories broke, each man was in the middle of a political campaign (Weiner for New York mayor, Booker for U.S. Senate) and both are Democrats. Buzzfeed was the first to report the "Booker Exchange”. It also brought national attention to the Weiner scandal, which was first reported on a little known gossip website.
But from what we know, it appears that is where the comparison ends.
Weiner is married, Booker is not. Weiner sent raunchy photos, while Booker just had a conversation with a stripper.
Weiner apologized for his actions. Booker, sees no reason to do so.
The “Booker Exchange” appears to have begun when Lee, who describes herself as a “stripper … model … weirdo” from Portland on her Twitter page, declared in a public tweet to Booker that “if you’re ever POTUS I call dibs on First Lady.”
Let’s be honest, Lee would not be your typical politician’s wife, let alone first lady of the United States given her profession and racy photographs and videos she has posted online.
After another woman suggested she had a close relationship with the Newark mayor because of their private Twitter conversations, Lee posted her own private exchange she had with Booker in February.
“And the East Coast loves you and by the East Coast, I mean me,” Booker writes in the private message to Lee. She responded, “Well now I’m blushing.” To which Booker said, “Its only fair.”
Pretty tame considering what Weiner did – sending an explicit photo of himself and engaging in sexual conversations online and over the telephone.
But so goes the pitfalls and perils of Twitter for politicians, as every online move they make is being watched.
Do you remember the embarrassing episode involving Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, who appeared to engage in a flirtatious interaction with a young woman? It turned out Cohen in fact did know the woman, but he thought she was his daughter from a prior relationship. No one else knew that Cohen was just engaging in what he believed was a harmless Twitter conversation between a father and daughter. How did it end? Well, not so good. The congressman later learned through a paternity test that she, in fact, was not his child.
Confused? How could you not be? People are revealing more personal information through social media than one would have ever thought of doing just a few years ago. There are no hard fast rules about how to interact in social media and politicians just like everyone else, are learning as they go along.
“The mayor is well known for communicating with people from all walks of life," Griffis said. "He is a real person and he has normal human interactions on Twitter."
Griffis, who regularly referred to the exchange of messages as "normal human interactions," said he did not know if Booker knew Lee was a stripper, but said even if he did, the mayor wouldn't have passed judgment because of her profession.
"I think he is the kind of person that doesn't judge other people or pass judgment on them," Griffis said. "They are trying to make a living and not hurting anybody else."
And Griffis said Booker finds it "amusing" that people find this sort of interaction "unusual."
As for the fascination about Booker's social media habits, Griffis said that because Twitter is a "relatively new way to communicate" people in the political world don't "know quite what to make of interaction that is not scripted 24-7."
Hours after Buzzfeed published the story, Booker addressed the issue himself by taking a poke at the editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed, through a Twitter message, of course.
“Alright @BuzzFeedBen, last time I ever appear in a film with you!” Booker tweeted in apparent reference to the documentary “Follow Friday the Film” in which Buzzfeed reports the mayor, Smith and Lee all appeared in.
For her part, Lee is standing by Booker – urging people to support his campaign and reveling in her newfound celebrity.
“do I need to hire a publicist to tell me when to post nudes now? these 5 min of fame are gonna be tough for my daddy issues.”
If Sydney Leathers is any indication, we suspect Lee’s time in the national spotlight will be longer than five minutes.
As for Booker, he is leading his GOP opponent in all of the polls and it is widely expected he is going to win the October special election.