Less than a week after Maryland State Sen. Catherine Pugh officially announced her candidacy for mayor of Baltimore, a surprising tweet was sent from her twitter account while she was attending a fundraising event. “Mmm mmm good looking men here (@ Martin’s West w/ 4 others),” it read.

A spokesman for the West Baltimore Democrat says the tweet was erroneously sent by a legislative aide who meant to post the tweet to a personal account. The staffer is no longer allowed to tweet for Pugh.

The incident is seemingly cleared up, but it raises questions about whether public officials should utilize social media sites at all, let alone allow their assistants to post on their behalf.

Earlier this week, Florida Congressman Allen West fired an intern for re-tweeting a musician’s message which responded to comedian Tracy Morgan’s assertion during a skit that he would stab his son if he were gay. The intern re-tweeted the following message to the anti-gay congressman’s official page, “Dear Tracy Morgan’s son: if you are gay, you can TOTALLY come live with me. We’ll read James Baldwin & watch Paris is Burning. XxANA.”

It’s fairly common for politicians, celebrities and other busy, public figures to authorize staffers to update their Twitter and Facebook pages. “I do allow it,” said State Delegate Mary Washington, D-43. “We alternate depending on if it’s something that needs to be posted right a way and I can’t.”

Washington says the ease of social networking can allow for mistakes. “But I am not more worried because of ,” she contended. “That was the equivalent of putting the wrong address on a letter, but instead of it being mailed to one wrong person, it went to 4,000.”

As a way to avoid rushed tweets that could lead to errors, she doesn’t advise her staffers to tweet until after she leaves an event. “Then you have more time to decide what you want to say,” Washington explained.

State Delegate Keiffer Mitchell, D-44, says social media is still necessary to connect with constituents. He uses twitter often, but is sure to send his own tweets. “I think it’s important in this new age of technology and communication and that’s why I try to do as often as possible,” he said. “I think people look at social media from elected officials as a way to gain information and sometimes to start debate and discussion.”

Towson University student and social activist Adam J. Jackson said it’s “extremely important” for politicos to stay on social networking sites. He follows several politicians including Washington, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, and at least one city council candidate and one mayoral candidate.

“It’s a concise and succinct way for them to give updates on what they’re doing in office,” he told the AFRO over Facebook chat. “They can easily publish their agenda and action items through their social media so there’s virtually no excuse for not keeping in touch with folks about what you’re up to.”

For a mayoral candidate, Jackson said incident’s like Pugh’s can hurt, “especially if it appears like the politician was the one who controls their twitter.”

“In the long term, it’s not that big of a deal, but folks running for public office always need to keep that kind of stuff in mind,” he said.

Although the tweet from Pugh’s account was flirtatious, it wasn’t embarrassing and risqué as twitter photos New York Rep. Anthony Weiner admitted to sending. That mishap might have convinced other congress members to carefully craft messages on their twitter account or stop using it altogether.

Lawmakers are tweeting 27 percent less than they were before the Weiner scandal, according to TweetCongress, a website that monitors congress member’s tweets.

 

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO