For Baker, mum’s the word on allegations against son

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.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

The state’s Health Policy Commission said Question 1, which would mandate nurse staffing ratios at hospitals, would drive up costs and have a far greater financial impact than the Massachusetts Nursing Association claims. (CommonWealth) After checking with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the commission waded into the political arena. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial applauds Boston-area mayors for pledging to up the construction of new housing in their communities, but says the Legislature now needs to step up and enact zoning reform that will make it easier to build badly needed new dwellings.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence’s Parthum School is closed after gas leaks are discovered there. (Eagle-Tribune) Columbia Gas is bringing in a cruise ship to house all the workers fixing the gas leaks in the Merrimack Valley. (Boston Globe) Columbia Gas is now putting up 321 Merrimack Valley families in area hotels.

Residents of Quincy’s Hospital Hill neighborhood are opposing a planned 598-unit housing project on the site of the former Quincy Medical Center. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The White House sent the FBI report to the Senate in the middle of the night with officials saying agents found no corroboration of allegations of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, setting up a vote for confirmation as early as Saturday. (New York Times) In a Trump-like effort to gather support for Kavanaugh, Republicans have been attacking the judge’s accusers and releasing information from former boyfriends that senators say undermines the women’s credibility. (Washington Post)

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins will face harsh fallout no matter which side she lands on in the Kavanaugh confirmation vote. (Boston Globe)

The parents of slain Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon and Sen. Elizabeth Warren co-author a Globe op-ed decrying Kavanaugh’s judicial record of “disregard for common-sense gun safety that hits closest to home for people who have lost loved ones, friends, or colleagues to gun violence.”

A federal judge in California has blocked the Trump administration from stripping 300,000 immigrants from Central America and Africa of their legal status, saying there were questions of racial animus including statements from President Trump the judge indicated showed bias toward nonwhites. (Washington Post)

The Justice Department has indicted seven Russian military spies, three of whom had already been charged with hacking Democratic party servers, for cyber attacks on agencies investigating doping by Russian athletes. (Wall Street Journal)

ELECTIONS

The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association endorsed Republican Geoff Diehl in his race against incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (Boston Herald)

Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey and her Republican challenger, Jay McMahon, go at in a 30-minute debate where they disagreed “on just about every issue.” (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

After a redo, the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council named a woman from Akamai as chief marketing officer of the year. Initially, no women were nominated for any of the council’s awards. But after protests, the council reopened the nomination process and ultimately gave one of the three awards to Monique Bonner. (WBUR)

A huge battle has broken out over plans by a Charlton apple grower to sell his orchard to a company that wants to set up one of the largest marijuana growing farms in the country. (Boston Globe)

US fishermen are losing hundreds of thousands of pounds of catch quota under a new pact with Canada. (Associated Press)

ARTS

The Barr and Klarman foundations team up to provide $25 million to 29 arts organizations across the state. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker delivers a $2.5 million grant for the $41 million restoration of the Paramount Theater in Springfield. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Filling a prescription for many types of generic drugs with your health insurance is often more expensive than paying with cash, according to research conducted by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission. (CommonWealth)

A Superior Court judge has upheld penalties issued by Yarmouth officials against a convenience store that violated the town’s ban on the sales of flavored tobacco. Cumberland Farms had challenged the fines, saying the cigars did not contain flavor and the store was under no obligation to cease selling products on a state health board list. (Cape Cod Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

With Lowell’s recycling contract scheduled to rise from $82,000 to $692,000 in 2019, a Lowell Sun editorial calls for a tough carrot and stick approach to improving individual recycling habits.

Gov. Charlie Baker and his Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez both commit to expanding the state’s offshore wind industry if doing so makes economic sense. (State House News)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA 

Gov. Charlie Baker says the slow start to marijuana sales — and the lack of revenues flowing into state coffers — is not a big deal. (MassLive)

Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi once again accused Baker of “walking that cautious Charlie line,” suggesting he is afraid to take a stand on whether the casino license awarded to Wynn Resorts should be revoked, thus plunging a $2.5 billion project and thousands of jobs into jeopardy. She clearly thinks the license should be revoked because she gives a free pass to Baker’s opponent, Jay Gonzalez, who has taken that position.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A federal judge ruled in a wrongful death suit that a state trooper was justified in fatally shooting a mentally ill man in Quincy who refused orders from police and advanced on the trooper threatening to kill him with a ballpoint pen in his hand. (Patriot Ledger)

A judge has denied a request from a woman charged with emailing a threat to a reporter at a Walpole newspaper to use the internet in a limited way. (MetroWest Daily News)

MEDIA

The Telegram & Gazette files suit against the city of Worcester for failing to release police records.