The Select Board candidates took their cases to HCAM viewers on Wednesday via the Hopkinton Hangout Hour taped half-hour segments, and incumbent John Coutinho elaborated on his frustration with comments on social media he felt were unfair.
The candidates were to debate on HCAM on June 15, but it ended abruptly after Coutinho announced he would not participate due to “vicious attacks” on social media that were posted but quickly deleted. He suggested his opponent, Amy Ritterbusch, was not doing enough to stop people from crossing the line online.
Ritterbusch, who previously said she was not aware of any inappropriate attacks and would not condone them, taped her Hangout Hour interview a couple of weeks ago.
Coutinho’s interview was much more recent, and he touched on his frustrations with the campaign.
“It’s been a difficult year because of the nastiness going on,” he said. “Hopkinton’s better than what was going on. Certain people were turning a blind eye to some of the nastiness that was occurring. Hopkinton’s better than that. It’s tough. Facebook pages filled with nasty comments and then dirty deleted [removed quickly so there is no evidence].
“This is neighbors being attacked by neighbors. And others sit back in their campaigns and allow it. They’re complicit. I’ve had enough, and I know that Hopkinton’s had enough.”
Coutinho said the issue cropped up last year as well, when then-Select Board chair Claire Wright, a fellow Republican, lost her reelection bid.
“Claire Wright, who dedicated 30 years of service to the town, was mercilessly attacked on social media with half-truths, lies and innuendos. She didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that. People who want to come to a volunteer position shouldn’t be afraid to come forward and help. It’s got to stop.
“No more turning a blind eye for fear of being the next victim. And again, those that allow it are complicit. We’ve just got to stop that.”
Coutinho said he’s hopeful people will be friendlier when they see each other in person.
“Hopefully [after the pandemic] people are actually social again, and not anti-social,” he said. “That we can go back to being neighbors as opposed to being a little picture in the corner of a screen or at the end of an email or the end of a Facebook post. And I think that humanity will come back into some people.”