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Brown disavows Twitter tweaking

Unaware his aide was ‘CrazyKhazei’; vows the effort at ‘levity’ is over

By Glen Johnson
Globe Staff / August 26, 2011

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US Senator Scott Brown said yesterday that he was unaware a top adviser was mocking a potential political rival under a false Twitter account, but Brown added that he has “made clear to everyone on or associated with my team that this type of thing is not to happen again.’’

In a statement to the Globe, the Massachusetts Republican said of the actions of aide Eric Fehrnstrom: “While it’s clear Eric was seeking to inject a little levity into politics on his own time, I wasn’t aware of what he was doing.’’

Fehrnstrom’s “CrazyKhazei’’ Twitter feed not only challenged Democrat Alan Khazei’s manliness, suggesting he would be a waterboy in the Pan-Mass Challenge in which Brown recently biked, but it also criticized Khazei for not serving in the National Guard, as Brown does.

Fehrnstrom was unmasked as the author Tuesday night, when he mistakenly sent a “CrazyKhazei’’-type tweet from his personal Twitter account, @EricFehrn.

In an e-mail to the Globe Wednesday, Fehrnstrom pointedly did not apologize, saying: “If you can’t stand the tweet, get out of the kitchen.’’

Yesterday, he was the focus of a measure of revenge: Someone created a “crazyfehrnstrom’’ Twitter account and illustrated it with a head shot of H.R. Haldeman, the crewcut-topped onetime chief of staff to President Nixon.

A “CrazyScottBrown’’ account, showing the former model in his now-familiar Cosmopolitan centerfold pose, also was launched.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Republican Party issued a statement putting the focus back on Khazei.

It urged Attorney General Martha Coakley to investigate the propriety of Khazei receiving payments from a charity he oversees, Be the Change, while he was a Senate candidate and the propriety of his approving payments from the charity to his brother for consultant services.

Both issues were the subject of recent reports about Khazei and the charity.

“The people of Massachusetts whom Khazei hopes to represent in the US Senate deserve to know if this charity is being used as a vehicle for Khazei’s own selfish financial interests,’’ Nate Little, executive director of the state GOP, said in the statement.

Brown is seeking his first full, six-year Senate term next year after winning a special election in January 2010 to complete the term of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Khazei, a Brookline resident who cofounded City Year, is among seven Democrats running for their party’s Senate nomination next year. An eighth prospective challenger, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, is also weighing a campaign.

Brown’s initial silence, lasting more than 24 hours, on his staff’s participation in negative campaigning came after the senator and Fehrnstrom had denounced negative campaign tactics that targeted the incumbent.

Brown had used such slights as a reason supporters should donate to his reelection campaign.

For example, in May, after Democrats tweaked Brown for proclaiming he had seen photos of Osama bin Laden’s body that turned out to be fakes and after the League of Women Voters launched a $1 million advertising campaign questioning his environmental record, Brown wrote on his website: “Even though my election is not for another year-and-a-half, the political machine is already gearing up against me. In the months to come, the special interest groups will run many more negative and personal attack ads, just like they did during my special election last year.’’

The page featured options to defend Brown with contributions and tweets.

“Let’s send a message to the mudslingers that their negative attacks won’t work,’’ said an announcer in a pro-Brown video.

At the same, Fehrnstrom attacked the League of Women Voters, saying: “It’s ironic that an organization that claims to want to elevate the debate would go into the gutter with a negative attack ad.’’

More recently, Brown condemned negative campaigning - and sought donations to defend himself against it - after Democrats accused him of lining up with the Republican Party to vote in favor of the so-called Cut, Cap, and Balance GOP budget plan.

“While partisan Democrats continue to launch their negative attacks, Scott Brown remains focused on reducing our debt and creating jobs,’’ Brown’s campaign finance director, John Cook, wrote in an e-mail.

“The opposition to Scott Brown is entirely focused on the same old negative attacks that backfired in last year’s special election,’’ Cook added. “You’d think the opposition would have learned its lesson. Instead, the attacks have gotten more shrill.’’

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.