PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Sign shenanigans prompted the Brendan Doherty campaign to suspend an unpaid intern after he called David Cicilline's campaign headquarters, pretending to be a supporter of the first-term congressman from Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District.
"He asked us for some ‘campaign stuff,'" said Cicilline campaign manager Eric Hyers.
But the caller ID showed the call came from Doherty's headquarters.
Hyers set up an undercover camera at the front desk of Cicilline's offices on Pawtucket Avenue in East Providence to record the intern trying to pick up what he'd requested on the phone.
"For a campaign that talks a lot about uncommon integrity, it's pretty pathetic," Hyers says, telling Target 12 he is convinced Doherty's campaign wanted the items for negative purposes. "It's dirty politics."
As the video clip comes to an end, Hyers is heard asking why the call came from Doherty headquarters. The unidentified 19-year-old Washington, D.C., college student, who's originally from Coventry, then stammers as he tries to explain.
"Oh," he says in a befuddled manner.
"What's up?" Hyers asks.
The student pauses and stumbles over his response.
"You're busted," Hyers says, as the recording ends.
Doherty campaign manager Ian Prior tells Target 12 the intern has been suspended for five days and was already leaving the campaign to head back to college almost immediately after the suspension will be over.
"This is not something this campaign engages in," Prior said, adding that the intern said he wanted the items for a college project. "We don't want to play those games. We want to stick to the issues and show the differences between Brendan Doherty and David Cicilline."
But Hyers charges that this is not the first time a Doherty supporter pretended to be a Cicilline supporter and he insists that orders for this type of campaign caper come from the top.
"For anyone who's done campaigns," Hyers said, "calls don't leave campaign headquarters without approval."
Prior calls that charge ridiculous, especially following the release by Cicilline of what Prior says is an inaccurate flier .
"They were caught red-handed trying to pass out a flier to senior citizens that misleads on Brendan's positions," Prior said. Hyer defended the flier as "totally accurate."
"I think this (the ‘campaign stuff' accusation) is their response," Prior fired back. "Distract, distract, distract from the real issues."
"It's disappointing," Hyers countered, with a shake of his head. "It's pathetic. It's embarrassing."
And it's still three months until Election Day.
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