What’s the truth on Arroyo in Suffolk DA’s race? Does it matter?

Amid a generally sleepy primary election campaign season, the contest for Suffolk County district attorney stands out. The race has been rocked by an explosive report in the Boston Globe that Ricardo Arroyo, who is challenging sitting DA Kevin Hayden, was the subject of two sexual assault allegations years ago. Arroyo vehemently denies ever assaulting anyone, and neither case resulted in charges against him. 

On this week’s Codcast, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi and GBH News politics editor Peter Kadzis grappled with two big questions raised by the story: What is the truth of what took place? Does it actually matter in the political context of the race? 

Arroyo is getting pounded from some quarters over the issue, but he and his supporters are also pounding back, trying to put the focus on Hayden by suggesting that he is responsible for leaking confidential police reports on the matter, something the DA denies. 

“I’ve been following Boston politics for a long time, and this is maybe the most brutal race I can remember,” said Kadzis. “It’s just bare knuckle boxing.” 

Vennochi said Arroyo could have simply denied the allegations. But he went further by saying he was never even made aware of them until now, “which put his credibility on the line in a very different way,” she said. 

“To deny that he had any knowledge of this when there were two police reports saying that this was investigated has really left him very little room to maneuver politically,” said Kadzis. 

Vennochi and Kadzis said the story is highlighting a pattern seen in several high-profile cases involving allegations of sexual assult or misconduct by politicians: People seem to filter such charges through the political lens in which they view the person at center of the controversy. 

The result: “Does the truth matter anymore?” Vennochi asked in a column last week. She wrote that it was “hard to believe” Arroyo’s claim to have known nothing about the allegations until questioned recently by Globe reporters. 

Former congressman Joe Kennedy III and Boston City Council President Ed Flynn rescinded endorsements of Arroyo after the story broke, as did Ironworkers Local 7, but so far a long list of progressive pols are sticking with him. 

“You have these top women politicians – Elizabeth Warren, Ayanna Pressley, Michelle Wu – who have all stood up in the past during the so-called me-too movement, who found Brett Kavanaugh completely unacceptable to be a Supreme Court justice on the basis of an allegation of sexual assault that went back to his high school years that I think he said he couldn’t remember, he didn’t do,” said Vennochi. “Arroyo has kind of picked up that same narrative. They didn’t have a police report on Brett Kavanaugh. As Peter pointed out, there are two here.”

People who were determined to vote for Donald Trump didn’t seem to care about the raft of sexual assault allegations against him, just as Joe Biden supporters didn’t seem swayed by much less serious allegations of “inappropriate touching,” said Vennochi. 

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Going back further, said Kadzis, “That is the story of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Women were largely silent because they liked Bill Clinton.” 

Speaking during the Codcast recording on Friday, Vennochi said one thing Wu could do is release redacted police reports from the incidents. Later in the day City Councilor Frank Baker – a Hayden supporter – filed an order seeking such documents, and Arroyo said he supports the move. 

“The silence from the higher-profile progressive Democrats is just deafening,” Kadzis said of reaction to the Arroyo story. “I mean, isn’t someone even going to say, geez, I’d like a more convincing explanation?”