On Friday morning, the colleagues of Minnesota state Sen. Scott Dibble (D-Minneapolis) received an unexpected email with attachments from an unknown person.
The nature of those emails isn’t entirely clear. They have been described in various news outlets as “graphic” or “explicit.” An anonymous source told MPR they included nudes and sexually intimate text messages. What we do know is that Dibble never wanted his workmates to see them.
Dibble, a married man, said in a statement that for the past five months he’d been hounded by a “former friend” with whom he’d had a “brief, intimate, and consensual relationship” online.
“When I attempted to end the relationship, I was threatened with embarrassment as this individual attempted to coerce me into continuing the relationship. My resistance to his threats was met this morning with a communication that was sent to my colleagues with what had been private photos, videos, and text messages.”
He told his colleagues later that morning that he’d made “an error in trust and judgment” by getting close to this person, and that their relationship had never been physical. He asked them to please be sensitive as news reached the public.
“That’s not something anyone enjoys talking about,” Senate Democratic Party Communications Director Ellen Anderson says. (Dibble wasn’t available for an interview.) But in “situations like this,” she says, it’s better to get out in front of the story before it mushrooms into something less true and more salacious.
That may have been the point of the whole thing. If what we understand about the situation is true, Dibble was the victim of a crime commonly known as “revenge porn.” He said as much in an interview with MPR. He also said he isn’t planning to prosecute, because the person who sent the emails lives outside the country.
Minnesota became the 33rd state to outlaw “the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images” in 2016. The cases that inspired the law both involved young women who were being harassed by young men (one in Canada and one in Isanti County), but various studies have found that women and men are equally likely to be victimized this way.
They also found that queer people are disproportionately affected; lesbians, gays, and bisexuals were four times as likely to have this happen to them. Dibble, as it happens, is an openly gay man, and you don’t have to look at very many social media posts before commenters start bringing up his sexuality in a negative or facetious way.
“These clowns seek the limelight when they come out or get married, but demand privacy when it blows up,” one Facebook commenter said. “Suggestion: Keep your personal life private like the rest of us try to.”
Nonetheless, Anderson says Dibble’s peers on both sides of the aisle have reached out to show their support. And a good deal of his allies have sent tweets backing him up and drawing more attention to his legislative work and advocacy—especially on behalf of the queer community.
Others strove to take the scrutiny and blame off him and place it on whoever sent the pictures in the first place.
“Fuck whoever is blackmailing scott dibble,” one Twitter user said. “That’s shitty.”
We have no real way of knowing who it was. MPR couldn’t confirm his identity, but a man claiming to be the sender said he lived in Singapore and that it had been Dibble who “lured” him into sending pictures. He didn’t answer why he sent photos of Dibble to the other members of the Senate.