Geoff Diehl, the Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts, is clarifying recent remarks that implied he might refuse to accept a loss to Democrat Maura Healey this fall, stating: "Liberal news organizations are obsessed with trying to get Republican politicians to commit to accepting the results of the 2022 election before it happens."

“These 'gotcha' questions from liberal outlets are not worth engaging in because all they are trying to do is weave a false narrative,” Diehl added in a statement emailed to GBH News. “It is ridiculous and preposterous to ask any candidate — Democrat or Republican — for any public office to blindly accept the results of an election that hasn’t even happened yet and to thereby waive their legal right and responsibility to raise questions and assert challenges if appropriate.”

Diehl also promised to accept the outcome of the governor’s election if no irregularities call it into question, and concluded: "Any insinuation that I would resort to any methods to protest any election outside of legally accepted means and consistent with the rule of law is demeaning, offensive, and most of all categorically false."

Diehl was identified in a New York Times story published over the weekend as one of several Republican candidates who, emulating former President Trump’s approach in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, have preemptively suggested that the 2022 results may not be valid.

In that story, the Times reported that a Diehl spokesperson answered “no comment” when asked if Diehl will accept the results in November.

Shannon Jenkins, a political scientist at UMass Dartmouth, said Diehl’s response to the Times should be evaluated on two different levels.

“Both in this state and nationally, there is little to no evidence of voter fraud,” Jenkins said in an email. “It seems to me that voters in Massachusetts have fairly high confidence in the integrity of our electoral system, so I think this will end up costing Diehl votes.”

However, Jenkins added, "This is the direction the state GOP has been heading. They support Trump, his policies, and his politics. Diehl has never hidden his support for Trump and this just reinforces that.”

As Diehl, a former state representative from Whitman, fended off Wrentham businessman Chris Doughty in the GOP primary, he received a late-campaign boost from Trump, who conducted a “tele-rally” on Diehl’s behalf and promised that Diehl would “rule your state with an iron fist.”

Diehl, who was an early supporter of Trump in 2016, was once dismissive of the former president’s false claims that he was the rightful victor in 2020. In a July 2021 interview on GBH News’ Greater Boston, Diehl said, “I don’t think it was a stolen election.” He also urged Republicans to “move forward [and] stop crying over spilled milk.”

Diehl subsequently reversed himself, however. In an August 2022 interview on WRKO, he said, “I was wrong initially. It definitely was an election that was stolen from Trump, and it was rigged in a way that should never happen again.”

Tatishe Nteta, a political scientist at UMass Amherst and the director of the UMass Poll, says agreeing with Trump on 2020 and suggesting that the 2022 results might not be valid puts Diehl squarely in the Republican mainstream.

“This is in line with the majority of the Republican Party,” Nteta said. “In our polling, we consistently find about six in ten Republicans who question the legitimacy of President Biden and the 2020 election. … This is a growing sentiment in the Republican electorate, that our elections system is fraudulent.”

But Ntesha also said that, while the Diehl campaign’s “no comment” to the Times should appeal to Republicans, his comments to GBH News seem geared toward the unenrolled voters who comprise a majority of the Massachusetts electorate.

“What Diehl is doing is having his cake and eating it too,” Nteta said. “We have a long history in the country of candidates, both Democratic and Republican, not conceding elections until all of the votes have been counted, not conceding elections until there’s clarity in terms of the legitimacy of the vote count. And so I think Geoff Diehl is trying to connect with what many would think is a common-sense reaction to any election or electoral result.”

Nteta, who noted that two recent polls show Diehl trailing Healey by 18 and 26 points, said Diehl will need to shift his tone and messaging quickly if he wants to make the race competitive.

“Diehl’s going to have to moderate,” Nteta said. “He’s going to have to move, in some shape, form, or fashion, away from what is a losing strategy, which is the full embrace of a Trumpian understanding of politics and a Trumpian agenda.”

For now, though, Healey’s campaign clearly sees a political opportunity in the Diehl campaign’s response to the Times.

On Sunday morning, the Healey campaign sent out a press release linking to the Times article and accusing Diehl of “fully embrac[ing] the Trump playbook of lies and division.”

After Diehl explained his comments to GBH News, the Healey campaign claimed he had “doubled down,” and added, “The choice in this election between Trumpism and progress has never been more clear.”