A group of nearly 50 notable Massachusetts figures across politics, business, and philanthropy — many supporters of Joseph P. Kennedy III — on Tuesday urged Senate Edward J. Markey and his campaign manager, John Walsh, to “publicly and clearly denounce the hateful conduct and speech” directed at Markey’s opponent in the Senate Democratic primary. The letter came one day after the Kennedy campaign publicly accused Markey and his team of not doing enough to discourage negative attacks by the senator’s supporters.
“The viciousness, the ad hominem assaults, the personal derision — this is the kind of speech and conduct that many of us have worked either individually or in anti-hate organizations to combat. To see it indulged, let alone tacitly encouraged, by individuals such as yourselves is painful,” the group, which includes past Markey supporters, wrote in a letter addressed to Markey and Walsh, a copy of which was shared with the Globe.
Among those putting their names on the letter to Markey and Walsh are Richard D. Glovsky, a Boston lawyer who has worked in support of past Markey campaigns; Dennis Kanin, campaign manager for the late Paul Tsongas’ 1992 presidential bid, and his wife, Carol, who served as finance director for former congresswoman Niki Tsongas; Mark Barrocas, head of the consumer products company SharkNinja, and his wife, Irina; and Ronald M. Druker, a well-known Boston-area developer.
The signatories include prominent figures in the Boston area Jewish community such as Barry Shrage, the former head of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, one of the state’s largest nonprofits.
The letter states that several of the signatories have worked to elect Markey in past races, and some have worked with Walsh. At least some of those who wrote the letter are supporting Kennedy’s campaign, and many appeared to have donated money to it, but Glovsky told the Globe in an interview he isn’t sure if everyone who signed on is backing Kennedy.
Asked about the letter at a campaign stop Tuesday, Markey pointed to an Aug. 11 debate with Kennedy and said he has already spoken out against the hateful attacks the letter raises.
“I said it as strongly as I can, that it has no place in this campaign. I made it very clear on statewide television,” Markey said. “I condemned it. I said it has no role, and that also [it] has nothing to do with my campaign.”
Markey said his campaign has immediately reported any inappropriate posts on Twitter to the platform.
Later Tuesday, the Markey campaign put out a press release saying they had reported a suspicious Twitter account with the handle @Markeychusetts, since deleted, posting insults about the Kennedy campaign to the FBI.
Markey declined to weigh in on whether he approved of Walsh describing the Kennedy campaign’s allegations and reports of death threats against their candidate as “crocodile tears,” a phrase that rankled many Kennedy supporters, including those who wrote the letter Tuesday to Markey and Walsh.
Markey said that language was part of a conversation between Walsh and Nick Clemons, the Kennedy campaign manager who raised concerns about what he said is the “dangerous” atmosphere being created by Markey supporters on Monday.
The senator said that the hateful and vile rhetoric online raised by the Kennedy campaign is “completely and totally unacceptable,” and vowed to continue to denounce such attacks.
But he stressed again that his “campaign is not responsible for those tweets [and] online attacks. We don’t have any connection” with the people making them, “and the Kennedy campaign knows that,” Markey said.
Glovsky said the letter came together as a “spontaneous” reaction to what its signatories have been seeing from Markey supporters, and that they were troubled because many of them know Markey well. “This is beneath him,” said Glovsky, who is supporting Kennedy’s campaign.
The Senate race, between two men who share remarkably similar positions on most of the major policy issues of the day, has increasingly focused on small differences in past positions and one another’s campaign tactics.
The primary is this upcoming Tuesday, though people have been casting mail-in ballots for weeks.