The Republican primary race for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat is getting ugly.
Just days after being endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell is now fending off attacks from his opponent, Jeff Bartos, a Montgomery County Republican who says two protection from abuse orders sought by Parnell’s wife make Parnell “unelectable” in Pennsylvania.
A memo released by Bartos’ campaign on Wednesday outlined two PFAs sought by Parnell’s wife and questioned comments Parnell made in 2019 while appearing on Fox Nation, a streaming service associated with Fox News. The memo says Parnell would be a “poison pill” for Republican chances to retain retiring Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat, adding that Parnell would sink GOP chances in the suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“From sexist comments on national TV to police-documented domestic abuse, Sean Parnell’s history makes him unelectable and will cost the GOP a shot at a Senate Majority in 2022,” the memo reads.
Parnell fired back at Bartos on Wednesday, calling him a “desperate liar.”
“Not only does he know full well that these allegations are provably false, but his willingness to spread these lies without any consideration for the damage he’s doing to my three young kids is utterly disgusting,” he said in a statement. “It takes a truly dishonorable ‘man’ to stoop this low just to score a few cheap political points. He should be ashamed of himself.
“This is gutter level politics at its worst and nothing more than the last gasp of a campaign on life support,” Parnell added. He also called on Bartos to withdraw from the Senate race.
The memo states that Parnell’s wife, Laurie, sought, and was granted, two protection from abuse orders in 2017 and 2018, respectively, resulting in Parnell being forced to temporarily relinquish his guns.
After being issued the 2018 PFA while at a Butler County domestic relations office, Parnell reportedly became “loud and disruptive,” prompting a call to the county sheriff’s office, according to a call summary report.
The memo also details multiple police calls made in 2018 by Parnell’s wife, who inquired about how to file a PFA, and called to alert police of Parnell allegedly taking items against her wishes, according to call logs provided by the Bartos campaign. One call in November 2019 also alerted police of an unidentified man reportedly jamming a rod into Laurie Parnell’s car tire shortly after the two PFAs had been filed.
However, the first PFA issued was later voluntarily withdrawn by Laurie Parnell, according to the Parnell campaign. The second PFA was dismissed by a judge, who granted Parnell 50-50 custody of the couple’s children. Laurie Parnell later agreed to the arrangement, according to the campaign.
Bartos’ campaign also expressed concern over comments Parnell made in 2019 while appearing on Fox Nation. Parnell, speaking about feminism, said the concept has “driven a wedge between men and women.”
“The idea that a woman doesn't need a man to be successful, the idea that a woman doesn't need a man to have a baby, the idea that a woman can live a happy and fulfilling life without a man – I think it's all nonsense,” Parnell said. “The truth of the matter is that men and women need each other. We elevate one another.”
When asked about the comments by Pittsburgh City Paper in 2020, Parnell took to Twitter to clarify that his remarks were made on a “tongue-in-cheek comedy show, the WHOLE POINT of which is to take controversial positions and argue them.”
Parnell added in a subsequent tweet that he doesn’t actually believe that women can’t be successful without men. During the same appearance, Parnell said that “from an evolutionary standpoint, it used to be women were attracted to your strength because you could defend them from dinosaurs” – a point that Parnell’s campaign says underscores the comedic nature of his remarks.
Requests for comment sent to the campaigns of Carla Sands and Kathy Barnette – two women also running for the Republican nomination – were not immediately returned.
Parnell and Bartos have already sparred with each other over their respective allegiances to the Republican Party – a trend that will likely intensify as candidates get closer to the 2022 primary election date.