The Republican governor of Massachusetts might not be facing a COVID-19 scandal to match the one plaguing the Democratic governor of New York, but a Boston Globe expose today reveals he has plenty to answer for.
Governor Charlie Baker was the subject of a scorching analysis headlined:
"FAILURE OF COMMAND: Gov. Baker and a top deputy played key roles in events leading up to the COVID-19 tragedy at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, but publicly faulted others. A Globe investigation examines what left it all but leaderless when the virus stormed in."
Even if Baker isn't as besieged as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Globe analysis was brutal. It focused on a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 76 veterans last spring at the veterans' healthcare facility—"one of the highest death tolls of any senior-care center in the country."
Here's a taste of how the Globe recounted Baker's less-than-candid response to the crisis as it unfolded early in the pandemic.
"The report by Boston attorney Mark Pearlstein was "nothing short of gut wrenching," Baker said. The chaos and carnage at the Soldiers' Home was "truly horrific and tragic." There had been inexcusable failures of leadership by superintendent Bennett Walsh and of oversight by Secretary of Veterans' Services Francisco Ureña, Baker said. So they both had to go.
At that press conference, Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders took no personal responsibility for the massive loss of life at a facility they oversaw. Instead, they laid blame solely on officials below them, particularly Walsh and Ureña, in what a Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigation has found was an often misleading narrative marked by omissions and false assertions.
"The governor distanced himself from the decision to hire superintendent Walsh, who now faces charges of criminal neglect during the pandemic. Baker said Walsh had been appointed by the Soldiers' Home board of trustees, which "really wanted Bennett Walsh to have that job. And I can tell you that the first time I ever met him or talked to him was when we swore him in."
"That wasn't true. Baker interviewed Walsh before naming him superintendent in 2016, despite Walsh's lack of health care management experience, an administration spokesperson recently confirmed.
"Baker also indicated that he and Sudders knew little about how badly Walsh was "in over his head," as one Veterans' Services official described his tenure to Pearlstein. When a reporter asked if knowledge of Walsh's shortcomings ever "got to the level of Secretary Sudders or your office," Baker replied, "I think the report kind of speaks for itself.
"So the answer is no? "Yeah."
"That wasn't true either…"
You can read the full Boston Globe report here.