“The #PINKWAVE is here!” says a campaign letter that was mailed to East Greenwich voters last week. It purports to be from a feminist and in support of Justine Caldwell, a Democrat running to represent East Greenwich at the State House. But the House District 30 candidate – who has made #MeToo and reproductive freedom central themes of her campaign – says it’s a fake and is meant to damage her campaign. The letter includes tropes like, “Men only care about sex!”; “Together we can build a feminine utopia here in East Greenwich!” and “a vote for Justine is a vote against all men.” among others.
Said Caldwell in a press release about the letter: “This disgusting mailer was clearly written by an opponent attempting to harm my candidacy.”
Her opponent, incumbent Republican Anthony Giarrusso, forwarded the letter to supporters, prior to her press release, saying, “I’m saddened to see political discourse fall to this level, but there has been a steady drumbeat like this for some time now from the Justine Caldwell campaign and its surrogates.” He also posted it to Twitter. Neither candidate could be reached for comment.
Republicans statewide quickly pounced on the letter. It was retweeted by conservative radio shock jock John DePetro and an employee of a local right wing think tank, as well as Republican representatives Brian Newberry, of North Smithfield, and Mike Chippendale, of Foster, who tweeted, “Amazing that the same people who claim republicans are ‘intolerant’ can mail a campaign letter like this and not see the hypocrisy…”
But locally in East Greenwich the letter was quickly denounced across the political spectrum.
“Woke up to find that people who oppose Dr Justine Caldwell are using the old trope of ‘feminists hate men’ to discredit her campaign,” Katie Sharkey, an East Greenwich Democrat, wrote on Facebook.
“Anyone with half a functioning brain would know that that letter is utter nonsense!,” said East Greenwich moderate Mary Ward, who has defended both Caldwell and Giarrusso during the campaign. “If it was spread to hurt Justine, I think it might actually have the opposite effect!”
And even at least one local Republican tried to defend Caldwell from the letter. “I for one do not believe for two seconds Ms. Caldwell would ever pen such hateful idiocy,” said Republican Town Council candidate Chad Callanan. “While I support Anthony there is an element out there that want power for powers sake and I want no part of them.”
If the letter is a fake, it represents a new low point in East Greenwich, politics, which has taken a bitter turn since the Republican-led Town Council appointed Gayle Corrigan as town manager.
In her press release, Caldwell, who declined an opportunity to comment after sending out a press release, insinuated the letter may have come from a member of Giarrusso’s campaign. David Caldwell, her husband and campaign advisor, reinforced this unsubstantiated claim on Twitter. “She pointed out that this letter was obviously written by a political opponent, and Chuck Newton works for Giarrusso and was fired from his State House job for impersonating a political opponent,” he tweeted. “People can draw their own conclusions.”
It’s the second time the Caldwell family has been hit by an anonymous letter to residents during her camapign. The first letter critiqued husband David for an unresolved housing matter in Ohio – an unpaid fine of less than than $50. Giarrusso supporter Matt Fecteau admits he researched David Caldwell and gave the information to someone, though he won’t say who. He also wrote a derogatory post in GoLocalProv about Justine Caldwell. Giarrusso said he had nothing to do with either of Fecteau’s actions, though the two have become friendly during the campaign.