Scott Brown gives Setti Warren the brush-off

You’ve got to see this WBZ-TV (Channel 4) video of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown declining to shake hands with Newton Mayor Setti Warren, one of his Democratic challengers, at a Memorial Day parade in Newton yesterday. I’m not sure Brown knew who Warren was. But doesn’t that make it worse?

Update: Brown spokesman Felix Browne tells the Newton Tab that the senator did, in fact, shake hands with the mayor, saying they “had already shaken hands and exchanged greetings” just before the moment captured by video. I’ve emailed Channel 4 spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster, and will report back when she responds.

Update II: The Warren campaign tells Blue Mass Group that Brown didn’t decline to shake Warren’s hand. Rather, he waved off a chance to meet some veterans who had been marching with Warren. “We’re not concerned or worried about this, and Mayor Warren greatly enjoyed his time out at the parade yesterday,” the Warren staffer wrote.

Update III: I received the following statement from Channel 4 spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster a little before 6:30 p.m.: “We reported in our noon newscast that a representative for Mayor Warren confirmed that Senator Brown didn’t make time for the mayor when he approached him after the parade to introduce the senator to some veterans, but both campaigns confirm that Senator Brown and Mayor Warren greeted one another and shook hands earlier in the day and that the Mayor is not at all upset.”

Herald exclusive: Democrat says Republican could lose

In today’s episode of “Let’s Play Editor,” you receive an entirely predictable op-ed from a prominent Democratic political consultant who writes that Republican Sen. Scott Brown could lose in 2012. What do you do?

  1. Write a polite rejection letter to the consultant and hope it won’t affect his willingness to return your calls.
  2. Curry favor with the consultant by publishing his piece on the op-ed page, secure in the knowledge that no one will read it.
  3. Blast the piece all over the front page, label it an “exclusive” and slap a headline on it pronouncing Brown to be “THE NEXT COAKLEY.”

If you’re Herald editor Joe Sciacca, then the answer is #3. Although Rubin’s affiliation is disclosed, today’s front page will make me pause the next time I criticize the tabloid for allowing Republican operative Howie Carr to rip Democrats.

Conflicting reports on a possible Brown foe

Setti Warren

Is Newton Mayor Setti Warren saying different things to different reporters about his future political aspirations? Or does it come down to a matter of emphasis and interpretation? That’s what folks at the Newton Tab want to know.

After Matt Murphy of the State House News Service reported that some Democrats were hoping Warren would challenge Republican Senator Scott Brown in 2012, Warren told Tab editor Gail Spector there was nothing to it.

But Warren didn’t come off as quite so emphatic in a Boston Globe story today by Alan Wirzbicki, who wrote, “Warren said he was focused on his job, but did not rule out a run and attacked Brown’s record.”

Lacking the full transcript of either interview, it’s hard to know what’s going on. Warren’s quote in the Tab — “My intent is to finish my term” — isn’t exactly a denial. And the Globe quotes Warren indirectly, so we don’t know what he actually said.

My guess is that both stories are right. And that Warren will soon be issuing a clarification.

More: The Tab’s Spector follows up with Warren. And he won’t be pinned down.

Photo via the City of Newton’s website.

Brown endorses Hudak, a man he once shunned

Scott Brown

Nine months after just-elected U.S. Sen. Scott Brown scrambled to disassociate himself from extremist Republican congressional candidate William Hudak, Brown has endorsed Hudak as part of a blanket endorsement of all nine Republicans running for the U.S. House from Massachusetts.

You may recall that, last January, Hudak put out a press release touting Brown’s endorsement — and that after Media Nation reminded folks of some of Hudak’s antics, including questioning Barack Obama’s citizenship and putting a poster on his property comparing Obama to Osama bin Laden, the Brown camp quickly disavowed the endorsement. Hudak eventually apologized to Brown, but insisted, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, that he has never held birther views.

Hudak, a Boxford lawyer, is challenging U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat.

Brown, in today’s announcement, also says that he’s contributing $1,000 to each of the nine candidates. He says nothing specific about Hudak or anyone else. It’s really just a matter of a Republican senator routinely endorsing his party’s nominees. Still, it’s an amusing coda to a long-simmering controversy.

In other Hudak-related news, the National Republican Congressional Committee has announced that it now considers Hudak to be “On the Radar” — a sign that Republicans believe Tierney may be vulnerable now that his wife, Patrice Tierney, has pled guilty to federal tax-fraud charges. And perhaps he is.

Tierney and Hudak will meet tonight at 7:30 in a debate sponsored by the Salem News and the Jewish Journal. Should be a wild time.

The company that Charlie Baker keeps

The Hudakmobile

Scot Lehigh has a splendid column in today’s Boston Globe on Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker’s recent close encounter with William Hudak, a political extremist who has flirted with the birther movement.

Lehigh writes that “there are pretty clear signs that Hudak has wandered well north of the border that separates a hyperbolic political hopeful from a poisonous, insidious kook.” Hudak, a Boxford lawyer, is running for Congress against Democratic incumbent John Tierney this fall.

Anyone who has followed the Hudak saga over the past several months will be familiar with the inept shuffle he gives Lehigh as he tries to deny he ever believed President Obama was not born in the United States. More to the point, though, Lehigh criticizes Baker, a purported moderate, for attending a Hudak fundraiser, writing:

Yes, Baker’s camp disavows Hudak’s views. Yet a candidate is also known by the company he keeps. And it speaks poorly of Baker that he’s willing to countenance Hudak to court his supporters.

As Lehigh acknowledges, the story of Baker’s appearance was broken earlier this month by David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix. Lehigh also credits Media Nation for assembling some of Hudak’s most toxic materials.

You may recall that this all started with Hudak’s claiming the day after U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley that Brown had endorsed his candidacy. After I posted evidence of Hudak’s extremism, the Brown people made it clear that there had never been an endorsement — and even though Brown is generally thought to be more conservative than Baker, the senator has wisely kept his distance from Hudak ever since.

How the media covered Scott Brown’s rise

Meet the press: Scott Brown speaks with reporter following Senate debate in December at WBZ-TV.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism and Boston University have published a study on how the media covered the race to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, a race that culminated in Republican Scott Brown’s surprising victory over Democrat Martha Coakley.

Among the authors of the report, “Hiding in Plain Sight, From Kennedy to Brown,” was my old friend Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the project, with whom I worked at both the Boston Phoenix and “Beat the Press.”

The findings of the study — which mainly focuses on the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, and to a lesser extent on the Associated Press and the New York Times — are not surprising. Essentially we learn that the media devoted precious little attention to Brown during the primary and general-election campaigns until Jan. 5, when Rasmussen released a poll showing that Brown was within striking distance.

From that point on, according to the report (verified by anyone who was paying attention at the time), the media went into overdrive, covering the campaign relentlessly but devoting far more resources to the horse race and strategy stories than to the issues. You will also not be surprised to learn that the Globe was more favorable to Coakley and the Herald to Brown.

“In the end, a campaign that first seemed to lack drama and star power was the most important and intensely covered political story in the country,” the report says. “And while they were certainly not alone, the press never saw it coming.”

I have a few quibbles with what was looked at. The authors, for example, criticize the Globe and the Herald for rarely getting outside of the Boston area, arguing that they might have picked up the Brown surge earlier if they had pushed themselves outside their geographic comfort zone. A fair point, but it’s too bad the folks who did the study couldn’t find a way to incorporate coverage from other news outlets around the state.

Then, too, talk radio, which formed a near-monolithic cheering section for Brown (and jeering section for Coakley), doesn’t even get a mention. Granted, newspaper stories can be closely analyzed in ways that talk radio can’t. But right-wing talk may have been the single most important factor in Brown’s rise.

Still, “Hidden in Plain Sight” is a revealing and valuable look at how Boston’s two daily newspapers covered the state’s biggest political story in many years, and is well worth reading in full.

Rachel Maddow breaks liberal hearts

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that MSNBC talk-show host Rachel Maddow, whose network recently took out a full-page ad so that she could tell U.S. Sen. Scott Brown that she’s not running for his seat, would actually be the best candidate the Democrats could put up in 2012.

It’s not that Maddow is so wonderful, although she’s pretty good. Rather, it’s that the death of Ted Kennedy exposed the hollowed-out core of a party that dominates state government, but that has failed to develop any new talent in a generation. The one exception: Gov. Deval Patrick. And he’ll be lucky to get re-elected.

Is Hudak putting words in Brown’s mouth again?

Is North Shore congressional candidate William Hudak putting words in U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s mouth again?

According to the Salem News, Hudak, a right-wing Republican who once posted signs in his Boxford yard comparing Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden, was the source of a rumor that former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey would run for Congress — a rumor that a former aide to Healey quickly denied.

Hudak, in turn, said he got it from Brown, whose staff would not confirm it.

Hudak, of course, got into trouble when he claimed that Brown had endorsed him the day after Brown’s victory in the special Senate election. Hudak has apologized, but he has never explained why he thought it was all right for his campaign to put out a press release falsely quoting Brown as saying, “Bill was with us from the beginning and is the representative the people of the 6th District need.”

(Via Red Mass Group.)

Scott Brown versus economic reality

“Failure should be admitted in Washington, and not repeated. With last month’s news that we lost another 85,000 jobs, and with unemployment stuck in the double digits, it’s time to admit that while the $787 billion stimulus had the best of intentions, it failed to create one new job.”

— Scott Brown, Boston Globe, Jan. 14

“Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.”

— David Leonhardt, New York Times, Feb. 16

The Tea Partiers’ dubious ties

This New York Times story on the Tea Party movement starts slowly but gradually gains momentum. In the first half, reporter David Barstow seems intent on showing that many of the new Tea Party activists are nice folks, if a bit misguided. In the second half, he really lets it rip, writing about the movement’s ties to far-right extremist militia groups that have been around for years.

As Barstow makes clear, there is no one single Tea Party organization. Tea Party activism was crucial to Scott Brown’s victory, and neither he nor they (with some exceptions) could be considered extreme.

But Barstow reports that a large segment of the movement is far-right, dedicated to Obama-hatred and conspiracy theories. There may come a time when the Republican Party and Fox News regret egging them on.