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Yvonne Abraham

Charlie Baker’s ‘sweetheart’ problem

Oh no, Charlie Baker, not again!

Don’t you have enough problems with women voters already? What were you thinking, calling Sharman Sacchetti “sweetheart,” and on camera, no less?

The FOX 25 reporter was asking you a question about your dropping the firm responsible for that ad with your daughter Caroline — the spot meant to make you more appealing to women.

“Last one, sweetheart,” you told Sacchetti, hand on her shoulder.

That giant thwack you hear? That’s the sound of women – and your poor campaign staff – smacking their foreheads.

Could you have been more patronizing?

RELATED: Baker criticized for ‘sweetheart’ remark


Women are your biggest problem in this gubernatorial race. You simply cannot win without closing the giant lead your opponent Martha Coakley holds among them. And so you’re busting a gut to try to win them over. When you spoke on primary night, you assembled a wall of women to stand behind you. You’re holding special events to convince half the population you “get” them.

Can you blame them for doubting you, though? The Democratic ads targeting women voters are just writing themselves at this point. For a guy who is supposed to have a brain the size of a planet, you sure are making some not-so-bright moves.

When you were first asked about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, anathema to those who treasure reproductive rights, you proclaimed that, “it doesn’t matter,” adding, incorrectly, “in Massachusetts it doesn’t change a thing.” You soon reversed yourself.

After pausing for several eternal seconds when asked about the Ray Rice domestic violence fiasco, you declined to call for the ouster of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying, “If we fired everybody every time we got into one of these situations...I would like to see more data and more information.” Later, you called on him to resign.


RELATED: Joan Vennochi | Charlie Baker needs an intervention on women

You quickly apologized after this week’s sweetheart comment, too, calling Sacchetti “an accomplished professional and someone who I have come to both respect and consider a friend.” Just FYI, even friends don’t call friends sweetheart in professional settings.

On Wednesday, you said that comment doesn’t represent who you really are, citing the fact that your senior advisers at Harvard Pilgrim, and most of your board, were women.

The problem is, this wasn’t a one-off. Back in March, my colleague Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, then at the Boston Herald, was interviewing you when, wrapping up the call, you said, “I have to go now, OK, sweetheart?”

That time, too, you quickly apologized. By way of explanation, you said she sounded like your daughter, a high school student. If you’re going to be governor, you’re going to have to do a better job of telling us apart, Charlie.

So, you’re a serial sweethearter. Does that make you a sexist pig?

I don’t think so. I reckon you’re pretty evolved, that you understand the world works better when women are fully represented in business and government. I don’t doubt that many of the women who have worked with you are true fans.

But the sweetheart thing speaks to something beyond hiring. Middle class women have made huge advances in the workplace. There is less blatant sexism than there used to be, but subtle forms remain. Many of us have been where those reporters were: Doing our jobs, believing we’re being judged on our abilities, when, boom, somebody drops a “sweetheart” on us and we’re put back in our places: Oh yeah, I thought I was doing pretty well here, but I guess I’m just a girl.


I know you’ll understand that, eventually, if you think about it. But it’s the eventually part that troubles me, Charlie. Voters who care about women aren’t going to go for a guy who needs to be told when he’s being clueless, then comes around.

They want -- and deserve -- someone who gets it right away.

More coverage:

Baker criticized for ‘sweetheart’ remark

Vennochi: Charlie Baker needs an intervention on women

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at abraham@globe.com