Trump-backed Ohio Senate candidate blames intern for link to adult website profile



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GOP Ohio Senate candidate Bernie Moreno has blamed a former intern for a “prank” after a report found his email account was linked to an adult website profile.

After a leaked database from the website Adult Friend Finder (AFF) and other available records were reviewed by The Associated Press, the newswire reported that someone with access to Moreno’s work email had made an account in 2008 on the website seeking casual sexual encounters with men.

Moreno’s campaign provided The Hill with a statement from the former intern, Dan Ricci, who said he created the account as “an aborted prank.” The campaign also provided a signed email from the former vice president of Bernie Moreno Companies that confirms Ricci was a Moreno intern in November 2008 and had access to his emails.

“I am thoroughly embarrassed by an aborted prank I pulled on my friend, and former boss, Bernie Moreno, nearly two decades ago,” Ricci’s statement said.

The statement said he was “one of the many people at the company” who had access to Moreno’s “public facing email account” for his Cleveland Porsche dealership.

The profile was last accessed about six hours after it was created in 2008, the AP reported. Ricci’s statement said he created the account as a prank and “never ended up going through with” it, saying the move was “not intended to be malicious.”

The Hill cannot independently confirm Ricci’s statement, since it was provided by the Moreno campaign, although it is signed by Ricci. The AP said Ricci did not respond to voicemails left on multiple phone numbers listed under his name.

According to campaign finance records, Ricci donated $6,599 to Moreno’s campaign in 2023, the AP reported.

Moreno’s lawyer, Charles Harder, said in a statement provided to The Hill that the account was created by an intern of Moreno Auto.

“16 years ago an intern at Moreno Auto created an account at AFF as a park, which he quickly abandoned that same day. We have provided AP a copy of a signed letter from that intern, admitting to this, as well as another signed letter from a former VP of Mr. Moreno’s company, confirming this intern’s employment at the time the account in question was created,” Harder’s statement said.

“The email address in question was nor Bernie’s personal email address, but rather an email address that appeared on company websites and literature and was managed by staff. Multiple people had access to it, including this intern,” the statement continued. “Bernie Moreno had nothing to do with the AFF account. According to metadata, the AFF account was never even used–there was no communications or contacts sent to or from any other AFF accounts, and no photos or content were uploaded to it. The AFF account existed for less than a half-day, 16 years ago.”

According to data reviewed by the AP, the profile registered under bernie@clevelandprosche.com was listed under a username “nardo19672,” which said in its profile that it was “looking for young guys to have fun with while traveling.”

The newswire noted that Moreno was once a public supporter of LGBTQ rights but has now become a hard-line opponent.

Moreno is backed by former President Trump in his race to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).

He is a wealthy business owner who has invested at least $3 million of his own money in his campaign. His current campaign is the second time he has run for one of Ohio’s Senate seats; he suspended his previous campaign in early 2022, before fellow Republican JD Vance eventually won that race.

The Ohio Republican primary is March 19, when Moreno will compete against two other candidates. The state, once seen as a swing state, has now shifted right, voting for Trump in 2016 and 2020, putting Brown’s seat in a vulnerable position for Democrats trying to hold on to their Senate majority this fall.

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