The Massachusetts Republican Party is in turmoil following the resignation of its vice chairman, Tom Mountain, who stepped down Sunday night amid allegations that he posted inappropriate comments on Facebook.
Mountain's departure has all the elements of a soap opera.
It began earlier this month, when a provocative web site called the "Turtleboy Daily News" published a story that included screen shots of what it said were "creepy" comments by Mountain posted next to photos of young women on social media. Turtleboy also detailed a so-called "catfishing" scheme — a kind of online trap — that allegedly tricked Mountain into sharing intimate details about his sex life with an imposter pretending to be a model.
"Don't be the creepy guy on Facebook," said Aidan Kearney, the man behind Turtleboy, who talked about Mountain on his show. "You are the vice chairman of the party. It is, you know, uncalled for, absolutely uncalled for."
Mountain claimed his Facebook account was hacked. He did not respond to an interview request from WBUR. But on Sunday night, he told the GOP state committee that he would step down as vice chair to focus on clearing his name; on Monday night, the party's executive committee accepted his resignation.
The resignation is just the latest in a series of controversies within the state GOP, including a deepening divide.
Conservatives are lined up behind former President Donald Trump and state party chair Jim Lyons, while moderates support Gov. Charlie Baker. Mountain was caught in the middle. He initially supported the former president, but after Trump lost, Mountain said it was time to stop the party's war with Baker.
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Mountain and Lyons also disagreed over how to handle comments by a state committee member, Deborah Martell, who said she was "sickened" that a gay couple had adopted children. Lyons acknowledged the comments were offensive, but rejected calls to push for Martell's resignation, saying the party must stand up against censorship and cancel culture. Mountain disagreed.
"You know, what she did was heinous," Mountain told WBUR in June. "It was intolerant. And quite frankly, it makes the rest of the party look bad. And what the chairman did was stay out of it, and then he doubled down to back her."
Some in the party believe that Mountain must have been set up by supporters of Lyons.
"You know, they catfished him," said Shawn Dooley, a state representative from Norfolk, who unsuccessfully challenged Lyons for the GOP chairmanship in January. "They tried to destroy this man, his family, his marriage — but to what point?"
"This purity test that [says], if you're not with us 100%, you're against us, is incredibly destructive, and I think it's immoral."
Reached by WBUR, Lyons declined to comment about the Mountain affair, except to say that he had never heard of the word "catfishing" until now and remains focused on building the party at the grassroots level.
"Particularly in conservative, Republican-leaning districts where we haven't been successful in the last 20 or 30 years," Lyons said. "And clearly, the elites in the party don't view it the same way."
Republican state committee member Amanda Orlando, a Lyons supporter, wouldn't talk about the Mountain allegations either. But Orlando said she doubted Lyons had anything to do with them — and she praised him for his leadership of the party.
"I think he's done a really good job," Orlando said. "He's focusing on the right issues. He's initiating ballot measures on issues that matter, like voter ID. This is an issue that affects everybody."
But Lyons critics insist he is leading the party astray. Among them is Dooley, who calls the latest controversy a "dumpster fire."
"I think the state party is just simply a laughing stock," Dooley said. "We're doubling down on losing."
Registered Democrats already outnumber Republicans more than three to one in Massachusetts, dominate the state Legislature, and control every seat in the state's Congressional delegation. Dooley said the latest controversy won't help Republicans gain ground.
This segment aired on July 20, 2021.