The dating life of Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), one of seven openly gay members of Congress, became the focal point Wednesday night in a debate that got ugly with a personal attack from a Republican challenger who’s facing an ethics investigation.
Matt Mowers, who’s challenging Pappas to represent New Hampshire’s 1st congressional district in Congress, levied the attack in a debate already fiery over the federal government’s response to the coronavirus.
“With all due respect, you’ve been dating a corporate lobbyist who actually was lobbying on behalf of Amazon at a time when you went to cast 10 separate votes on Amazon’s behalf on bills they lobbied you on,” Mowers charged.
Pappas, in response, said the accusation was “not true” and in turn said Mowers has been “paid by pharmaceutical companies and D.C. special interests after you left the Trump administration.”
In fact, Mowers has been a consultant for at least two pharmaceutical companies. After filing an illegible financial disclosure form for his candidacy, Mowers was accused of trying to hide that work from New Hampshire voters, which led to a complaint now before the U.S. House Ethics Committee.
But Mowers wouldn’t let up in his attack, saying Pappas is “doing the bidding for a bunch of corporate special interest groups in D.C.”
“You are dating a corporate lobbyist,” Mowers said. “The fact of that matter is you never disclosed it.”
As the debate participants began talking over each other, Mowers made the false claim Pappas was required to disclose his dating life to the public.
“In fact, there’s actually rules and regulations,” Mowers said. You have to disclose that, especially gifts from lobbyists to the House Ethics Committee, something you’ve never done.”
Pappas, who continued to say the charge was “outrageous” and “not true,” said his opponent is “somebody who worked for the Trump administration.”
“I have read your financial disclosure, Matt,” Pappas said. “You get paid by big drug companies, you get paid by D.C. lobbying firms, you’re representing their interests, not the interests of the people of New Hampshire.”
Pappas hinted the criticism was a veiled attack on his sexual orientation, concluding, “To go after me personally is really disgusting, and there is no place for them on this debate stage.”
Following the debate, Pappas issued a statement calling Mowers’ attack on his dating life “despicable” and said it “crossed a line.”
“Members of the LGBTQ+ community have always been held to a different standard when running for office and Mr. Mowers’s baseless attacks perpetuate those same harmful lines of attack,” Pappas said. “New Hampshire voters saw gutter politics at their worst tonight, but true Granite Staters know that hate has no place in our state.”