Apr 13, 2016 10:25 PM
NH1 News Political Director
CONCORD – Shawn O’Connor says he’s “here today to set the record straight, to name names and to put all the facts out there so the people of the first district will have all the information they need to draw their own conclusions about who was responsible for these vicious attacks.”
And in an exclusive interview Wednesday with NH1 News, the Bedford businessman who’s running against Carol Shea-Porter in the hunt for the Democratic nomination in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District named those names of people he said back up his claims that the former congresswoman’s campaign spread rumors that he was a perpetrator of domestic violence.
“The domestic violence charge, accusing me, a survivor of domestic violence, of being a perpetrator, is just the most egregious,” O’Connor alleged. “This was part of a mass conspiracy to impugn my record, to attack me personally.”
And he added that “we should never allow any survivor of domestic violence to be attacked over that in any way, let alone being called a perpetrator of domestic violence.”
NH1 News reached out to Shea-Porter’s campaign numerous times on Wednesday, but there was no response. Last week, after O’Connor made his initial claims against Shea-Porter, her campaign described his charges as “untruthful” and a “desperate attack.”
O’Connor names names
O’Connor, who is considering legal action against Shea-Porter, contends that “what we will be able to demonstrate is on the part of the paid staff, Naomi Andrews and Carol Perry, who are her two paid staffers right now, a pattern of them lying about my record on many issues.”
Andrews is the chief of staff for Shea-Porter’s campaign and Perry is a longtime staffer for the former congresswoman.
O’Connor alleged that Andrews reached out a couple of months ago to Julia Barnes, who at the time was New Hampshire state director of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, just days before O’Connor became the first and only statewide or congressional official or candidate to endorse Sanders. O’Connor said that Andrews was trying to dissuade the Sanders campaign from allowing O’Connor to announce his endorsement as he introduced the Vermont senator at a January 3 event at the Rockingham Ballroom in Newmarket.
O’Connor claimed that “Julia Barnes said that Naomi called to say that I was a perpetrator of violence and that this would come out. Those are the exact words that I understand were spoken.”
O’Connor said that “if Julia doesn’t say that on the stand, other people will say they know that to be the case on the stand from the Bernie campaign here in New Hampshire.”
One of those people is Kurt Ehrenberg. O’Connor told NH1 News that “my campaign has spoken with Kurt Ehrenberg, who is the political director of Bernie New Hampshire. And he has confirmed that he’s had conversations with Julia Barnes about the phone call immediately thereafter.”
NH1 News reached out to both Barnes and Ehrenberg multiple times on Wednesday, but neither responded. Last week, after O’Connor’s initial claims, NH1 News reached out to Barnes. She did not respond but she did go up with a post on her Facebook page in support of Shea-Porter. But her posting didn’t address O’Connor’s claims.
On Thursday, Ehrenberg disputed O'Connor's claims, telling NH1 News that "no one ever said anything to me about Shawn O'Connor and domestic violence."
"Nor did I tell anyone that I heard anything about it," Ehrenberg added.
Last week Democratic state Sen. David Pierce, who’s endorsed O’Connor, told NH1 News that someone close to Shea-Porter told him that O’Connor “was involved in a domestic violence incident and believed that he (O’Connor) was the perpetrator of it.”
O’Connor now claims that Perry is that person.
“Carol Perry has spread all sorts of lies about me, and Bob Perry, Carol Perry’s husband, was the source that gave it to David Pierce,” O’Connor alleged.
O’Connor is also pointing fingers at Caroline French, a longtime Shea-Porter supporter and friend.
Last week state Rep. Jackie Cilley said that she had heard numerous rumor that O’Connor was a perpetrator of domestic violence.
Wednesday O’Connor claimed that “Caroline French did tell state representative and former gubernatorial candidate Jackie Cilley that I was a domestic violence perpetrator.”
Asked by NH1 News if he’d talked to Cilley, O’Connor said “I have multiple times. And she admits. She has told me multiple times that it was not only Caroline French but other people. And so Caroline French has been on every campaign, has been a friend of Carol Shea-Porter for 20 or 30 years.”
NH1 News reached out to Pierce and Cilley by phone, text and email, multiple times on Wednesday, but neither responded.
O’Connor also claimed that Shea-Porter herself was aware of what was going on, saying “we’ve got the Perrys, we’ve got Naomi Andrews, and then we’ve got a slew of former staffers of Carol Shea-Porter who say Carol Perry and Naomi do not go off freelancing about this. I mean they are not allowed to craft a tweet without Carol Shea-Porter’s direct authorization. So there is no way that Carol Shea-Porter did not have direct knowledge of this.”
“There is no reasonable person who could think that Carol Shea-Porter did not know about this personally and that her campaign is not responsible for these rumors,” he alleged. “So she needs to account now for this smear campaign. I am here again to insist on a public apology.”
O’Connor, who is gay, added that “I don’t want to speculate as to Carol Shea-Porter’s motives but I certainly think that most people do not think that anybody would make these sort of allegations against a straight women, and I’m a gay man.”
NH1 News reached out to Andrews numerous times, but there was no response. Last week, after the initial claims from O’Connor, she put out a statement saying “this is just a sad, untruthful, and desperate attack. Nothing more need to be said.”
O’Connor told NH1 News “that we negotiated for well over a month with Carol Shea-Porter. I wanted this to be resolved privately. I did not want this to turn into the public circus that it has turned into.”
And he claimed that “I went to eight or ten Democratic senior states people, elected officials, you can imagine the names. For their sake I’m not going to throw out the litany of names. But you can imagine the most senior Democrats in the state. I will throw out that (New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman) Ray Buckley was one of them, asking them to mediate this dispute in private. They refused.”
NH1 News reached out to the NHDP for comment, but has not heard back yet.
Why he’s doing this
O’Connor said “what this is about and what the lawsuit would be about is making sure that something like this never happens again because nobody should be subjected to the personal humiliation and attacks for seven or eight months that I faced at the hands of Carol Shea-Porter and her staff members.”
O’Connor added that “I think that’s what’s most important is that we get an apology out of the lawsuit or hopefully Carol Shea-Porter had the dignity to come forward with an apology before that. Obviously this lawsuit won’t see a jury for a year or a year and a half.”
Asked by NH1 News if the lawsuit would go away if he gets that apology, O’Connor said “not necessarily because at the end of the day the lawsuit is separate from the electoral politics. I would make that determination at that time.”
As for the political consequences, O’Connor said “for me this is not about winning this election. If I lose this election, I will lose it with a clean conscience.”
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