The right-wing has a soft spot for stories that back up their ideological nonsense; whether it’s the mythology of Horatio Alger or Paul Ryan’s brown paper bag, they’re extremely sympathetic to anecdotal evidence that shores up their worldview. The more heart-wrenching the story, the better; the latest in this trend comes from Republican Charlie Baker, who’s running for governor in Massachusetts.
Earlier this week, Baker delivered a tear-jerking story regarding a New Bedford fisherman who feels that he’s ruined the lives of his sons because of the regulations choking the fishing industry. A story that, as Rachel Maddow pointed out the day before Halloween, is likely fake.
The story came up on Tuesday’s debate, when the moderate asked the candidate to recount the last time they’ve cried. Apparently it’s an important thing for governors to be able to cry in Massachusetts; an “are you human” test, maybe. I’ll take it over a captcha (I hate those things), but it leaves me questioning how Romney wound up with the position.
Baker became very emotional has he recounted the story. He described the size of the man, saying he was a “big huge man, completely soaked in sweat and salt water” and it was like “hugging a mountain.” He described how the fisherman had two sons that were standout athletes at New Bedford School and had football scholarships to play in college. All was not well for this All-American man and his All-American children, however; the dad had told his sons that they were going to fisherman, just like all the men in the family, because children don’t get to make independent choices regarding their life. The fisherman felt that he’d ruined his son’s lives, because of the struggles facing the local fishing industry.
If we had a Basic Income Guarantee, it wouldn’t be a problem. I’m just throwing this out there, because I’m assuming his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, didn’t.
Baker put on the waterworks, complete with the cracking voice. This story turned into a campaign framing device; with the days counting down, the raw display of
crocodile tears emotion will definitely sway some, as Americans in general are good people with big hearts — even if our collective head is softer than duckling down.
It was a great story. And it was also just that: a story.
Rachel Maddow described the impact of the performance during her broadcast on 30 October, and then noted that the local media is unable to find anyone fitting that description in New Bedford. Likewise, the Boston Globe has been unable to find Baker’s fisherman.
Of course, Baker has backed away from the story slightly, saying that it happened in 2009, and that the fisherman had just been fishing around New Bedford and not from the town. His campaign claims that Baker may have gotten a few details wrong, like the sons playing football. Instead, it may have been another athletic scholarship, or the father embellished the story he told Baker (a fisherman, embellishing a story? Isn’t that a stereotype?)
Despite this, Baker’s sticking to the story. He told the Globe that the fisherman “certainly existed for me.”
I’m skeptical; my approach to this fisherman’s tale can be summed up with, “we’re gonna need a bigger shovel.”
You can watch Maddow’s segment below.