Ten days after winning the endorsement of The Boston Globe editorial board, Fourth Congressional District candidate Jake Auchincloss submitted to an unprecedented public vetting on Monday in which he explained and apologized for controversial past comments and social media posts.
In an Op-Talk aired live online, Globe editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman pressed Auchincloss about statements like the one that surfaced the day of his endorsement in which he seemed to justify the burning of the Quran.
In a 2010 Facebook post with a news story about Pakistani lawyers burning the American flag, he had pondered: “So we can’t burn their book, but they can burn our flag?”
Auchincloss apologized for the post, calling it a “stupid remark by a snarky 22-year-old.”
“It was an attempt to make a nuanced point in a very tone-deaf way,” he said. “I would hope that instead of allowing my record to be defined by a social media post 10 years ago, it should be defined by my record of service of issues that affect the Muslim-American community,” speaking out against President Trump’s Muslim ban and cosponsoring a Sanctuary City order that would stop city police from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement.
But even as Auchincloss defended his record, he misstated it. The Newton city councilor, who had criticized the city of Cambridge for “taking PC too far” in 2016 for renaming Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples Day,” said he has evolved and now believes that America should rethink its symbols.
“I’ve co-docketed a resolution in Newton over the last couple of months to rename it Indigenous Peoples Day,” Auchincloss said.
He has not, however. Newton City Clerk David A. Olsen said the only such proposal came from Councilors Emily Norton and Victoria Danberg in 2018, and has not been acted upon.
Auchincloss’ spokeswoman Yael Sheinfeld clarified that he is supporting a new Indigenous Peoples Day effort led by a group called Families Organizing for Racial Justice in Newton. He tweeted his support on Aug. 3, in the wake of criticism about his past comments on Cambridge.
The unorthodox public vetting of an endorsed candidate was scheduled after many Globe readers expressed concerns about the stories that have emerged as the sluggish campaign heated up. The Globe endorsed earlier than usual in the campaign cycle because of mail-in voting prompted by the pandemic.
Auchincloss is competing against eight other candidates for the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, who is running for US Senate. Two candidates are competing in the Republican primary.
The crowded field of candidates was ignited by the notion that the endorsement could be reconsidered. However, Venkataraman made clear that readers should not expect a change of heart. (“We do not revoke endorsements,” Venkataraman wrote on Twitter.)
As a result, some Auchincloss critics viewed the Globe event as another forum giving him an advantage in which he would get to air his views.
Still, for nearly an hour, he faced pointed questioning from Venkataraman, who pushed him on his thought process and frequently gave voice to the “skepticism” his critics might articulate about his answers.
She pressed him on an unsatisfying Juneteenth exchange described by a Black 2020 Newton high school graduate who said he could not get Auchincloss to engage in a discussion of systemic racism besides repeating his desire for police reform. Auchincloss pointed to his record as his defense, saying: “I would say that I’ve been involved in that conversation my entire tenure on the Newton City Council.”
He also dismissed a letter to the editor by four student volunteers working on the campaigns of several of his competitors who called Auchincloss “unfit to hold this seat.”
“These incoming political attacks are to be expected,” Auchincloss said.
Venkataraman also pressed Auchincloss on why he stood up for the freedom of speech of students who had flown the Confederate flag outside a Newton high school rather than for the students who would have felt threatened by such an act.
“Are you using your voice as a political leader to date,” she asked, “to stand up more often for the powerful than the marginalized?”
Auchincloss returned repeatedly to his record, saying he has a “record of constantly standing up for those who are marginalized.”
Though this was the first event publicly examining an endorsed candidate, Venkataraman said it may not be the last.
The still-endorsed and newly grilled candidate was gracious.
“I‘m proud to have earned the Globe’s endorsement,” Auchincloss said in a statement. “It’s appropriate that candidates for Congress come under increased scrutiny.”