FOR CHARLIE BAKER, it’s all about keeping your head down. Riding a huge lead in polls, the state’s famously moderate governor is doing all he can to get through Election Day with feel-good ads and by avoiding any hot-button issue that might anger voters who lean either a bit to the right or left as he looks to maintain his bipartisan bonafides in these highly polarized times.
All of which explains why Baker is eager to say as little as possible about a matter that puts his family squarely in the middle of the #MeToo moment — and not in a good way.
The issue involves allegations that his 24-year-old son, A.J., groped a female passenger on a JetBlue flight from Washington, DC, to Boston. WBZ-TV broke the story two days after the June 20 incident. A “visibly shaken” woman on the flight told police the younger Baker groped her breast, according a police report cited by the Boston Globe. Accounts of the incident say witnesses heard her exclaim, “don’t do that…don’t do that,” after which she called for a flight attendant to move her to a different seat. Baker reportedly told State Police who met the flight when it arrived at Logan Airport that he was “asleep the whole time.”
Because the alleged assault occurred in flight, the case was handed over to the US attorney’s office. Gov. Baker said at the time that his son will fully cooperate with any investigation. But that’s where the story seems to leave off. The US Attorney’s office says it only comments on a case if charges are brought, and Baker is saying nothing.
Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr has teed up the story a couple of times, suggesting the case will eventually “get the broom,” and mocking Baker for his concurrent outrage over allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. But in recent days, calls for the governor to share what he knows about the status of the case have extended well beyond Carr, who has become a biting critic of the governor he calls “Tall Deval,” likening him — in a way meant to be anything but complimentary — to the liberal Democratic governor he succeeded.
On Monday, Globe columnist Joan Vennochi weighed in, saying of the governor and the federal investigation, “It’s time to be transparent with the results, when he knows them.” Yesterday, Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld echoed that. The “public does deserve to know the outcome of this case considering it involves the son of the governor,” he wrote. “This is politics in the post-Kavanaugh era.”
This morning, a toughly-worded Herald editorial makes a similar call. “Beacon Hill is still reeling from the Stan Rosenberg scandal and the collective consciousness of the country is now focused on the crime of sexual assault, through the lens of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings,” it says. “If Gov. Baker does not act with full transparency and inform the people of the commonwealth about what happened on that airplane and subsequently in the legal system, he will seriously diminish his moral authority on matters of good governance.”
For now, at least, Baker is sticking to his script, telling reporters and editors at the Springfield Republican and MassLive in a sit-down yesterday that “decisions with respect to the public release on this stuff, those belong to the US attorney.”
Of course, that’s only half right, since the US Attorney’s office has already said it will only comment if charges are brought. Baker is free to say whether the feds have told his son no charges will be filed. So far, that’s a freedom he seems uninterested in exercising.