NEW BEDFORD — The day after Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker emotionally recounted the story of a New Bedford fisherman in a televised debate, people intimately involved with the city’s fishing industry and high school athletics say they don’t know of a family that fits Baker’s description.
Asked when was the last time he had cried, Baker recounted a discussion with a fisherman who talked about his sons being offered college football scholarships but instead becoming fishermen. The fisherman said of his sons that he “'ruined their lives,'” an emotional Baker recalled at Tuesday night’s televised debate against his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Martha Coakley.
But in New Bedford on Wednesday, those familiar with the port and New Bedford High football said the story didn’t ring any bells.
“No one comes to mind that I can think of,” said Jim Kendall, president of New Bedford Seafood Consulting. “I’ve gotten several calls on this, texts and emails, too. … I’ve checked around, and no one seems to be able to put a finger on who it would be.”
Kendall said he believes he would have pinned it down because he’s been working in the fishing industry for 51 years.
“I’ve been running several fishery groups in the city, that’s all I do,” he said. “I would think I have a pretty good grip, if not knowing the individual, knowing who to reach out to, and so far I’ve been unsuccessful."
Richie Canastra, co-owner of Whaling City Seafood Display Auction, also was at a loss for who it was.
“I just don’t recall that,” Canastra said. “Right now, we’re down to about 36 vessels we unload in New Bedford; there used to be close to 200. I don’t know of who the person would be.”
“I don’t know all the fishermen,” Canastra added.
“I don’t know who it could be,” said Anne Jardin-Maynard of Dawson Boat Settlements in New Bedford, saying she only knows one fishermen whose sons played football at all and that they live on Cape Cod. Baker discussed a fisherman who he said had two sons who attended New Bedford High School.
A source with a longtime association with New Bedford High athletics said after many years familiar with the program, he did not know of any two brothers at NBHS receiving football scholarships, never mind going fishing instead.
Baker declined to talk with The Standard-Times on Wednesday, but he gave an interview to The Associated Press in which he said he met the fisherman in New Bedford in 2009 or 2010. He insisted the man told him that his sons went to New Bedford High School, were "spectacular football players" and received scholarships. He reiterated his comments at the debate that the man told him he ruined his sons' lives because he insisted they become fishermen.
Baker’s campaign declined to provide the name of the fisherman.
“I won’t be able to do that. I am very sorry,” wrote Baker spokesman Tim Buckley in an email to The Standard-Times. Buckley did, however, provide a link to an Oct. 27, 2010, Brian McGrory column in the Boston Globe recounting the story of a fisherman with two sons, but it made no mention of New Bedford, football or lost scholarships. McGrory, now the editor of the Globe, did not return a request for comment.
In an email to The Standard-Times, Jim Conroy, another Baker spokesman, wrote that Baker's answer to the question about the last time he cried described a recent recounting of a 2010 conversation when he ran against Deval Patrick for governor.
“We’re not going respond to other folks’ recollection,” said Conroy. Instead, he provided a link to a 2010 video of Baker at the New Bedford port talking to fishermen but that includes nothing about the fisherman with the sons playing football he referenced in the debate. Conroy suggested the names of several people who accompanied Baker on that trip but he said they were not present during the conversation with the fisherman.
"Like the thousands of people he’s met over the course of campaigning for Governor, we unfortunately do not know the name of this person,” Conroy wrote.
Bonnie McGilpin, a spokeswoman for Coakley’s campaign, declined to comment.
Follow Jonathan Carvalho on Twitter @JonCarvalhoSCT.
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