Auchincloss — who is viewed as a frontrunner in the race to replace Congressman Joe Kennedy — wrote in a 2010 Facebook post, “So we can’t burn their book, but they can burn our flag?” He linked to an article about Pakistani lawyers burning the American flag.
Auchincloss initially described the comment as a “sarcastic” remark he made as a 22-year-old Harvard student, and stopped short of apologizing outright. His rivals pounced: fellow Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman called the comments “inexcusable,” and former Assistant Attorney General Dave Cavell called them “disqualifying.”
Another candidate, Jesse Mermell, suggested the Facebook post was “only the most recent transgression of Auchincloss’s to come to light,” alluding to a previous controversy over him comparing the Confederate Flag to a gay pride flag or a Black Lives Matter banner during a 2016 episode in Newton involving students displaying the Civil War emblem. Brookline lawyer Ben Sigel has even called for Auchincloss to drop out of the race.
Nazda Alam, a Muslim American and Democratic Party activist, issued a statement Tuesday saying she was “deeply disturbed by Jake Auchincloss’ hateful comments” and calling on other elected officials who are supporting him to rescind their endorsements.
The issue also appeared to alarm members of the Boston Globe editorial board just days after they endorsed him to represent the 4th Congressional District, which stretches from northern Fall River through the Attleboros and Taunton up into the suburbs bordering Boston.
“Many @GlobeOpinion readers and community members have expressed concerns about what we’ve learned about the candidate’s statements and campaign finances since the board’s deliberations,” Bina Venkataraman, the Globe’s editorial page editor, tweeted Tuesday. Saying they “deserved to know more,” Venkataraman announced she will conduct a virtual Q&A “about his record on racial justice, free speech + other questions” on Monday.
Auchincloss backtracked on Wednesday.
“As a white man, I recognize that I need to interrogate my own privilege,” he said in a statement. “I’ve gotten this wrong, years ago, in tone-deaf social media posts that could cause offense to Indigenous and Muslim communities. I’m sorry for these comments — I regret them, and I’ve learned from them.”
He added that he is supporting an initiative by the group Families Organizing for Racial Justice to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in Newton.