On Thursday night’s episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, host Rachel Maddow focused on Massachusetts’ gubernatorial race between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker. Despite the state’s liberal leanings, Baker has pulled ahead in a tight race. Earlier this week, Baker appeared to put the nail in the coffin when he detailed a tearjerking story of a New Bedford fisherman who feels he’s ruined his sons’ lives due to the regulations that are choking the fishing industry. The story came up during Tuesday’s debate, when the moderator asked the candidates to recount the last time they’ve cried.
Baker got very emotional as he described the story of him meeting with a huge fisherman in the fishing community of New Bedford as he was out on the campaign trail. He waxed poetic as he described the size of the man, saying the fisherman was ”big huge man, completely soaked in sweat and salt water” and it was like “hugging a mountain.” He then talked about how the fisherman had two sons who were standout athletes at New Bedford High School and had football scholarships to play in college. However, the dad had told the sons that they were going to be fishermen, just like all the men in the family. The fisherman now felt that he’d ruined the sons’ lives due to the struggles facing the local fishing industry.
As Baker told the story, he became emotional and choked back tears, his voice wavering. Immediately, this became THE story of not only the debate, but the campaign as a whole. With a week left, it appeared that Baker’s story would be enough to sway undecided voters his way as he had shown raw emotion and proved to voters that he wasn’t just another stiff politician. However, a problem soon arose. Obviously, with a story like that and the details Baker provided, the news media would be on the hunt for the fisherman so they could score an interview. It now appears that Baker may have made up the whole thing.
During Maddow’s broadcast, she described the impact of the debate performance and then discussed how local media are unable to find anybody fitting that description in New Bedford. Below is video of the segment, courtesy of MSNBC:
The Boston Globe has tried to find Baker’s fisherman without success. Baker has now said that his encounter with the fisherman actually occurred in 2009 and not during this campaign. His campaign also said that the fisherman may have just been fishing in New Bedford but not from the town. They also said that Baker may have gotten a few details wrong, such as the sons playing football. Instead, they may have had other athletic scholarships, or the father may have embellished the tale told to Baker.
People from New Bedford say they have no idea who Baker is talking about. They say there is no local fisherman that fits the description Baker gave who has two sons who played high school football (or other sports) that went into the fishing industry with their father. When they extend the search to surrounding towns, the Globe found a few potential candidates. However, all of them have denied meeting Baker and having an emotional encounter.
For Baker’s part, he is sticking to his story. He says he may have gotten some details wrong, but the meeting happened. As Baker told the Globe, the fisherman “certainly existed for me.” At this point, it is looking more and more that Baker told a huge whopper of a fish tale. While you may be able to pull swing votes by tugging on heartstrings, you can lose even more if you’re exposed as a fraud.