Bernie Moreno, Trump and more attack 'false' report about alleged old link to adult website

The Ohio businessman is running in an important Senate primary.

March 17, 2024, 3:42 PM

Ohio Republican Senate candidate Bernie Moreno and his allies are disputing a recent news report detailing a years-old potential link between his personal information and a profile on a website for soliciting casual sex, which has thrown an eleventh-hour twist into the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The Associated Press first reported on Thursday that a review of records and a data breach of the Adult Friend Finder website indicated a profile made in 2008 had ties to Moreno, including that the account was created with Moreno's email address, had a username that referenced his first name and birth year and was "set up for use in a part of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where property records show Moreno's parents owned a home at the time."

The profile was only accessed within a span of a few hours back in 2008, according to the AP. It sought "Men for 1-on-1 sex."

Moreno's attorney said he didn't create the account and provided a statement from an intern who said he did it as a joke, the AP reported.

Moreno, a wealthy and well-known businessman in Ohio, is campaigning in the Senate primary against some LGBTQ+ rights, particularly related to transgender people -- slamming his rivals as backing a "radical trans agenda."

He has previously voiced support for gay marriage and not discriminating against gay people.

Moreno's attorney, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News, gave the AP a statement from a former intern of Moreno's who said that the Adult Friend Finder profile was a "juvenile prank."

A former executive at Moreno's company said in another statement to the AP, through Moreno's attorney, that the intern would have had access to Moreno's email as part of his duties.

The AP story notes that it could not confirm that Moreno himself used the email to set up the online account but reported that the links had fueled some concerns among conservatives.

In a statement on Saturday, Moreno blasted "the liberal media" and "vile attacks on our family," and he shared a separate statement from his wife, Bridget Moreno, who attacked state Sen. Matt Dolan, a primary opponent, because a political group allied with Dolan had created ads referencing the AP article.

PHOTO: Bernie Moreno is acknowledged at a rally with former President Donald Trump in Delaware, Ohio, Apr. 23, 2022.
Bernie Moreno is acknowledged at a rally with former President Donald Trump in Delaware, Ohio, Apr. 23, 2022.
Joe Maiorana/AP, FILE

"I have full confidence that Ohioans will ... elect an actual conservative to the U.S. Senate," Bridget Moreno said, adding that "this story has proven to be 100% false." (Dolan's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

On Saturday, Bernie Moreno rallied outside Dayton, Ohio, with President Donald Trump and other backers ahead of Tuesday's primary, in which he's running against Dolan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Polls suggest the contest is neck-and-neck and the general election against Brown will be closely watched in Washington since its outcome could determine control of the Senate, currently held by Democrats 51-49.

At Saturday's rally, Trump suggested, without evidence, that Democrats were behind the scrutiny of Moreno: "They keep doing a number on him just like they've done in everybody else. That's all they do. Disinformation and misinformation. They're masters at it. They lie. They cheat."

Other Republican allies at the event sounded similar notes, casting Moreno as the latest victim in a movement targeting conservatives across the country.

"They're a bunch of liars. Let's hold them accountable on Tuesday," South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said.

"We determine who the senator from the state of Ohio will be, and we're going to choose Bernie Moreno," added Sen. JD Vance. "You've got to ask yourself: Why are they throwing everything at him in these final few days? Why are they throwing everything at Bernie Moreno? Because they know he answers to you and not to them. It's that simple."

ABC News' Tal Axelrod contributed to this report.

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