Patrick Murphy will not participate in any forums or debates with Alan Grayson amid allegations of domestic violence.
The announcement came as Grayson and Democrat Pam Keith held a press conference at the Palm Beach County Courthouse to call for more debates in the U.S. Senate race.
“Over the last week, I have heard from many people, including survivors of domestic abuse, that Alan Grayson’s continued presence in this race is an insult to the countless Floridians whose lives have been affected by this kind of violence,” said the Treasure Coast Democrat said in a statement. “When a survivor of domestic abuse comes forward, we owe it to them to listen with an open heart.”
POLITICO reported last week that Grayson’s “ex-wife repeatedly went to the police with accusations of domestic abuse.” The accusations, POLITICO reported, were over a two-decade period. Grayson denied those allegations.
In the days following the POLITICO report, Grayson lost a few of his most prominent endorsers. According to the Tampa Bay Times, MoveOn.org, a nationally known progressive organization, is withholding an endorsement in the race in light of the allegations.
“Alan Grayson has refused to address these issues. Alan Grayson’s words have disqualified him from public service, and I cannot in good conscience give him a platform to promote himself and his campaign,” said Murphy. “As result, I will not participate in any forums or debates with Alan Grayson.”
Michael Ceraso, Grayson’s campaign manager, said Murphy was “exploiting this very personal family struggle for his own political gain.”
“Alan Grayson, like all of us, is a flawed individual. But he’s always been driven to help as many people as he can, especially the most vulnerable,” he said in a statement. “The media, in its attempt to cover his often-controversial style, hasn’t always been able to draw a complete picture of the man. Whether it is these allegations, or just his record of legislative accomplishment, the whole story isn’t being told.”
Ceraso said Grayson has discussed “these allegations and any other allegations openly with the press,” and would continue to do so for the rest of the campaign.
The two men were scheduled to participate in a debate Aug. 12. The debate, hosted by Channel 9 Eyewitness News, would have been the sole televised debate between the two men before the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.
Murphy’s campaign did not agree to a debate hosted by WFME, a public radio station Central Florida. That decision prompted the press conference with Grayson and Keith, who were expected to call for more debates.
Ceraso said Keith was “unequivocal” about her willingness to debate Grayson alone or with Murphy.
“Perhaps Patrick Murphy has an issue debating with anyone in this primary, whether it’s Alan Grayson, or the only woman in the race,” he said.
Victims’ advocates were quick to support Murphy’s decision.
“With printed in black and white domestic abuse allegations against Alan Grayson, Patrick Murphy’s decision to pull the plug on a debate planned before this horrid news broke, is the right decision,” said state Sen. Audrey Gibson. “There should be no place on a platform designed to enlighten voters, for that which could potentially further victimize survivors of domestic abuse.”
Victims’ advocates were quick to support Murphy’s decision. In a statement Wednesday, Rep. Kristin Jacobs said the documented claims against Grayson “coupled with his recent statements — namely calling his longtime wife a ‘gold digger’ — disqualify him as a serious candidate.”
“Patrick Murphy’s decision to not give a platform that would legitimize Grayson’s candidacy was a good one and I support him in this,” said Jacobs, who escaped an abusive relationship after 10 years, in a statement. “Grayson’s repeated public statements amount to public bullying and in my opinion disqualify him from serving.”
Lauren Book, an activist who recently won her state Senate race, also said she supported Murphy’s decision, saying “domestic abuse and public bullying has no place in politics.”
“Rep. Grayson has repeatedly attempted to silence his ex-wife’s voice and has engaged in a public shaming campaign in his attempt to discredit her. While we do not know the specific facts behind her allegations during his lengthy marriage, we do know that Rep. Grayson’s attempts to publicly shame his ex-wife of 20 years are disgusting and outrageous,” said Book in a statement. “We need to stand unified against this kind of public bullying and unacceptable behavior from a sitting member of Congress. Grayson needs to end his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.”