Stomping onto the dangerous turf of talk radio, gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley called out a WEEI radio host for an on-air tirade in which he lambasted FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews, cursing about her and telling her to “drop dead.”
The rant on the “Dennis & Callahan Show” Wednesday morning prompted Coakley to contact a reporter covering the story to weigh in and later prompted an apology from the radio personality.
“Everybody understands fair criticism,” Coakley told Boston.com. “But when it becomes personal, when it’s demeaning, and when it goes over the line as this did, that language is inexcusable, and it’s offensive. I just felt it was important for me to weigh in.”
A Coakley campaign spokesman confirmed the interview and sent a statement from the candidate reiterating her concerns to the Globe.
A Democrat who is leading the race for governor, Coakley is spending her week focused on female voters, launching a so-called Moms for Martha tour of towns across the state on Tuesday. Last week, her Women’s Leadership Council began touting her as the best candidate to advance women’s rights. And two weeks ago, after the Supreme Court shot down as unconstitutional the clinic buffer zone she had defended, Coakley called for legislation preventing harassment outside abortion clinics.
Wednesday’s dust-up was spurred by an on-air rant from Kirk Minihane, who blasted Andrews for the MLB All-Star interview she conducted with St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright had already seemingly acknowledged to reporters tossing easy pitches to New York Yankees star Derek Jeter in Jeter’s last All-Star game. So Minihane accused Andrews of throwing a softball herself by failing to ask Wainwright follow-up questions and for blaming the ensuing controversy on social media.
“What a b----,” Minihane said on-air. “I hate her. What a gutless b----. Seriously, go away. Drop dead. I mean seriously, what the hell is wrong with her? First of all, follow up. Secondly, the guy admitted he did it. He told reporters that he threw a couple of pipe bombs to Jeter. So how is that social media’s fault?”
Cohost Gerry Callahan also called her a “bubblehead.”
On Wednesday night, the home page of WEEI’s website featured a banner with a link to Minihane’s apology for his choice of words.
“To all whom I offended, particularly Ms. Andrews, I apologize,” he wrote. “There is no place for what was said. It was immature and completely uncalled for.”
It was hardly the first time the show’s hosts have caused controversy. In 2003, both Callahan and John Dennis were suspended for two weeks after Dennis compared a gorilla that had escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo to a Metco student waiting for the bus.
Metco sends mostly black inner-city students to suburban schools.
Coakley, the state’s attorney general, had an infamously rocky relationship with sports fans during the 2010 US Senate special election she lost to Scott Brown. First, she dismissed the idea of campaigning outside Fenway Park in the cold, which Brown did. Then, when asked about legendary Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, Coakley called him a Yankees fan. The episode baffled Red Sox Nation and led Schilling — already a vocal Brown supporter — to record a round of automated campaign calls, as Brown saw his candidacy championed on talk radio.
Coakley, a Democrat, is the only woman in the race for governor in a field that includes two other Democrats, three independents, and two Republicans. The leading Republican, Charlie Baker, faced a steep gender gap when he lost to Governor Deval Patrick four years ago.
Asked about the controversy Wednesday night, Baker also issued a statement. “As a Dad with a young daughter, I find these derogatory remarks towards women shocking and completely unacceptable,” he said.
With her comments Wednesday, Coakley appealed directly to women, even as she may have further distanced herself from the talk show constituency. Calling the WEEI hosts’ comments “unacceptable” and “outrageous,” Coakley cited other women who are venomously criticized for their professional work.
“In 2014, when we want our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters to be treated with respect, this language was offensive and absolutely unacceptable,” Coakley said in her statement to the Globe. “Erin Andrews is a professional who was doing her job, and a woman should be able to do her job without those outrageous comments.”
“It’s fair game to criticize when there’s a disagreement, but the language used was over the line and offensive not only to women, but to everyone,” she went on. “As a woman who has spent her career in public service, I know how hard it is for many women to succeed in certain professions. The comments were wrong, and people should speak out about it, so it doesn’t happen again.”
Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com.