NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Twitter is U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker’s preferred method of communication. He’s often seen at public events pecking away at his phone, sending his 1.4 million followers staccato updates, inspirational quotations, shoutouts to campaign volunteers and nerdy musings on “Star Trek.”
But his social media habit raised some eyebrows this week after the website Buzzfeed disclosed that he direct messaged with a stripper from Oregon.
The 44-year-old Booker, who is single, exchanged the private messages earlier this year with Lynsie Lee. She works at Casa Diablo in Portland, Ore., which bills itself as “the world’s first vegan strip club.”
Booker and Lee both had appeared in a documentary about using Twitter. In February, Lee wrote Booker to say the West Coast loved the Newark mayor. Booker wrote back to say the East Coast loves her, “and by the East Coast, I mean me.”
“Well now I’m blushing,” Lee wrote back.
“It’s only fair,” Booker responded.
Lee provided a screenshot of the exchange to BuzzFeed, which published a story Wednesday.
The playful exchange is typical of how Booker engages on Twitter, sending out cheeky answers to marriage proposals, responding to a man with a play on the lyrics to Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” retweeting people with risque usernames and regularly asking followers to send him direct messages.
Booker brushed off the exchanges with Lee on Thursday, reiterating that he communicates with “thousands of people” on Twitter. Booker said he doesn’t care what people do for work and the “puritanical judgment” of Lee was “over the top.”
Booker said he talks to everybody and has no plans to stop.
“You guys might have some prurient interest,” he said, “but at the end of the day this is about extending kindness to folks.”
Lee told The Associated Press that the interaction was “G-rated flirting” that had been blown out of proportion. She called it a “1 out of 10″ compared with some of the messages she receives.
“I flirted with him publically, as I do with a lot of people,” Lee said about Booker. “There was nothing secret or sexy about it.” She said she and mayor never communicated outside Twitter.