Tag Archives: Peter Lucas

Ed Markey, through the mists of time

Veteran political reporter Peter Lucas reminds us of a great anecdote involving a young state rep named Ed Markey and Massachusetts House Speaker Tom McGee, who died last week. Lucas writes in The Sun of Lowell:

In the middle of his second term in 1975, Markey opposed McGee on a bill dealing with the abolition of part-time district court judges in Massachusetts. As a result, so the story goes, an angry McGee threw Markey, a lawyer, off the Judiciary Committee, and had him and his desk moved out of the committee offices into the hallway.

A year later, a congressional seat opened up, and Markey ran under the slogan “They may tell me where to sit, but nobody tells me where to stand.” It was “boffo,” Lucas writes, and Markey won.

Now, as Markey gears up for a Senate campaign, he’ll have to convince voters that he’s done or said anything as memorable as that in the intervening 38 years.

The never-ending story of “White Will Run”

Peter Lucas (left), George Regan and Emily Rooney

There have been a couple of additional developments in the brouhaha over the Boston Herald’s classic 1983 “White Will Run” story.

First, on Friday, Emily Rooney and company decided to broadcast an edited-down version of the “Greater Boston” segment with former Herald columnist Peter Lucas and longtime Kevin White spokesman George Regan that had been killed earlier in the week. I got to watch it on the set.

Rooney, on “Beat the Press,” explained that the video wasn’t too incendiary to air — rather, she and others at WGBH-TV (Channel 2) decided it was inappropriate for a show intended as a tribute to White and his legacy.

Second, today the Boston Globe publishes an op-ed piece by my Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson, who was the Globe’s City Hall bureau chief in 1983 when Lucas reported — erroneously — that White would run for a fifth term.

The dispute has always been over whether Lucas screwed up, as Regan claims — or if, as Lucas contends, White set him up as punishment for the rough treatment Lucas had meted out to him in his Herald column. I’m with Lucas, and Robinson comes down firmly on his side:

As the city celebrated the mayor’s life, warts and all, Regan tried to rewrite a settled chapter from the city’s rich political history, about a storied occurrence in which the mayor settled a score against a columnist he disliked intensely. Did he not remember that White, just after his declaration of retirement, hurried off to give Lucas a two-hour interview that Regan himself said that night was done “to make up’’ for the harm that was done to the columnist?

Denying that White was involved in such a clever prank, Robinson writes, would be “a bit like saying that Churchill didn’t much enjoy whiskey and a good cigar.”

Strangely, the Herald itself still hasn’t published a word about one of the most storied moments in its history. I’ve got to believe we’re going to hear something from 70 Fargo St. before this is over. After all, it’s the never-ending story.

Lucas, Regan go at it over “White Will Run” legend

Now, here’s some must-see TV. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like we’re going to see it. Frank Phillips reports in the Boston Globe that former Boston Herald columnist Peter Lucas and the late Boston mayor Kevin White’s press secretary, George Regan, practically had to be separated by host Emily Rooney yesterday on the set of “Greater Boston,” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2).

Lucas, as you may know, had a legendary front-page exclusive in 1983 reporting that White would seek a fifth term. Lucas was wrong, and apparently on Tuesday he repeated his contention that White deliberately misled him as punishment for his tough, occasionally mocking coverage. Phillips writes that Lucas and Regan got into it hammer and tongs:

But the screaming match appears to have centered on whether White intentionally misled Lucas about his plan to run again, causing the erroneous headline and story or whether Lucas misinterpreted what White told him. The verbal exchange was intense enough that Rooney was forced to junk the take, calm down her guests, and reshoot the segment so it was suitable for television.

In an interview with Phillips, Regan denies that White intentionally misled Lucas. But as I wrote yesterday, I’ve heard Lucas discuss the incident before. It’s a great yarn — in Lucas’ telling, White gave Lucas the exclusive on the condition that Lucas not identify the mayor as his source, and then pulled the rug out from under him.

Lucas also claims that then-state treasurer Bob Crane was incredulous, telling Lucas he could have warned him away from the story. I’m not going to try to reconstruct something I heard Lucas say some 25 years ago, but essentially he responded that he saw no need to check in with Crane when he’d gotten his information directly from White.

Former Boston Herald editor Kevin Convey, who was a Herald staff member in 1983, tweeted this morning, “There was no doubt in Lucas’ mind or in the minds of the editors” that White had deceived him.

The “Greater Boston” segment was reshot, and Rooney’s conversation with Lucas and Regan is civil and noncontroversial. (Disclosure: I’m a paid contributor to “Beat the Press,” the Friday edition of “Greater Boston.) You can watch it above. The Lucas-Regan segment begins at 19:45.

Three observations: (1) I believe Lucas, even if White may have left himself some wiggle room; (2) I hope he writes about it; (3) it does not tarnish White’s legacy in any way to believe he was involved in a political prank of that magnitude. It only adds to his legend.

Peter Lucas on Kevin White: “He had style and class”

Kevin White in 1975

Former Boston Herald columnist Peter Lucas, now with the Lowell Sun, throws a change-up in his tribute to the late Boston mayor Kevin White.

Lucas, most closely associated with great mayoral nicknames like “Kevin from Heaven” and “Kevin Deluxe, the Mayor of America,” dwells at some length on White’s unsuccessful 1970 campaign for governor against the Republican incumbent, Frank Sargent. Lucas’ take:

Beaten politicians are usually humiliated in defeat. Not Kevin White. He grew bigger. While Sargent was ousted four years later by Michael Dukakis, White went on to get elected mayor three more times. And as the city grew, he grew, becoming almost larger than life. He had style and class. He made Boston come alive for the 16 years he was mayor. He put Boston on the map.

Lucas also makes a brief allusion to the “White Will Run” debacle of 1983, when the mayor gave him an exclusive: Lucas could report that White would seek re-election as long as he didn’t attribute it to White. The Herald went with a huge front-page headline the next morning. Later in the day, White publicly announced he wouldn’t run.

Years ago, Lucas told a hilarious version of that story at a meeting of the Northeastern Journalism Alumni Association to which I had invited him to speak. I hope he’ll tell it again.

Photo (cc) by the City of Boston Archives and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Rupert Murdoch, Peter Lucas and the politics of hate

Peter Lucas

Former Boston Herald columnist Peter Lucas has a scorcher of a piece about his old boss Rupert Murdoch online at the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise and the Lowell Sun. Lucas’ job was one of many that were saved when Murdoch took the dying Herald American off Hearst’s hands in 1981. But he says he discovered the dark side of that deal in December 1982, when he was personally asked by Rupe: “Is the governor on the take?”

Lucas doesn’t say which governor. In late 1982, Ed King was the outgoing governor and Michael Dukakis, coming back after his defeat at the end of his first term in 1978, was governor-elect. It seems likely Murdoch was more interested in Dukakis than King. In any event, Murdoch soon developed a deep and abiding hatred for Dukakis, which came to a full flowering during the Duke’s ill-fated presidential campaign in 1988. Lucas writes of Murdoch’s Herald:

The paper, under Murdoch’s orders, turned on Dukakis with such hate that it was difficult to comprehend. Murdoch, who supported Vice President George Bush, simply used the paper — Dukakis’ “hometown” paper — to savage Dukakis. The more serious Dukakis’ candidacy became, the more he was mocked, smeared and ridiculed, as was his poor wife, while Murdoch secretly met with Bush.

In Des Moines just days before the important Iowa Democratic presidential primary, a Murdoch executive from the Herald told his reporters, “My job is to make sure Dukakis doesn’t become president.”

It was during that period I met with a key Murdoch editor of the paper from London. I asked him, “Where did all this hate come from? We never had this hate before.”

He turned red in the face and looked down at his shoes. When he did not answer, I said: “You guys brought it in.” Needless to say, I was soon gone.

Lucas writes that the Murdoch he knew had “a darkly cynical, nasty and negative attitude toward politics, government and humanity in general.” Certainly nothing has changed over the years. Fortunately, Murdoch sold the Herald in 1994.

Back in his Herald days, Lucas was one of the most visible and respected political columnists in Boston. It was Lucas who was victimized by then-Boston mayor Kevin White in 1983, which led to the Herald’s classic “White Will Run” headline. (White wouldn’t run.) And he’s no liberal — his reincarnated political column consists largely of conservative criticisms of Gov. Deval Patrick and the local political culture.

Lucas’ observations about Murdoch should be taken for what they are: the first-hand account of a good newsman, appalled at the lack of ethics and standards epitomized by Murdoch and his wrecking crew. Keep that in mind as we try to figure out whether Murdoch’s son James was lying or simply didn’t know what he was talking about when he and Dad appeared before a parliamentary committee earlier this week.

A Globe-Herald spat, 31 years down the line

Jimmy Carter in 1980

Former Boston Herald (and Boston Phoenix) political reporter Peter Lucas checks in with an account of his exclusive Herald interview with then-President Jimmy Carter during Carter’s 1980 re-election campaign against Ted Kennedy.

Lucas’ stroll down memory lane was prompted by a Jessica Heslam piece in the Friday Herald — part of the paper’s multi-day package on its White House snub — recounting past instances of journalists and presidents not getting along. Heslam wrote:

Veteran White House reporter Curtis Wilkie, who covered former President Jimmy Carter’s administration for the Boston Globe, said that Democratic commander in chief “so disliked” the Hub broadsheet that he gave the conservative Herald an interview rather than the Globe, because the administration felt the Globe had been unfair to Carter.

“He didn’t care for the Globe. It didn’t matter to me,” said Wilkie, who teaches journalism at the University of Mississippi. “Nothing wrong with being in an adversarial position with the White House. Better to be adversarial than too cozy.”

Wilkie’s recollections prompted an email from Lucas to Heslam. Lucas, now a columnist for the Lowell Sun and the Fitchburg Enterprise & Sentinel, sent along a copy to Media Nation and gave me permission to post it. I’ve broken it into a few paragraphs for readability:

Jessica: Curtis Wilkie doesn’t know what he’s talking about regarding the Herald’s interview with Jimmy Carter. I got that interview and by no means was it “given” to me. Wilkie is in need of a memory transplant when he says it did not matter to the Globe at the time. The Globe absolutely panicked and whined to the White Housse for weeks.

Not to bore you with an old war story but here it is. Ted Kennedy was challenging Carter for the presidency in 1980. The Globe was in the tank to Kennedy, (what else is new?) and Kennedy was not talking to the Herald. I told Jody Powell, Carter’s press secretary, that the Globe would kill him in the primaries but that the Herald would give him a fair shake.

All I wanted out of it was an exclusive interview with the president who at the time was in his Rose Garden strategy because of the Iranian hostage situtaion and not talking to any reporters. The primary coverage was important because you had the Iowa caucus coming up and this was to be followed by the caucus in Maine and then the really important New Hampshire primary.

Powell was skeptical and wary. He did not want to anger the Globe. I persisted. So Carter beats Kennedy in Iowa and the Globe gives the headline to Kennedy. The same happens the following week in Maine. I go to Jody Powell and say I told you so. I hound him (as only a Herald reporter can do) in the days before the New Hampshire primary and Carter finally relents. I get to interview Carter alone in the Oval Office and the story leads the paper Feb. 15, 1980. It is a huge deal and makes the national news. (I still have it hung up in my garage.)

Days later Carter beats Kennedy in his own backyard of New Hampshire and it is all over for Kennedy, although he staggers around through the convention. The story was a clean exclusive and it embarassed the Globe to no end, including my friend Wilkie. The Globe had a huge Washington Bureau at the time and we had nobody down there, and here comes a Herald reporter out of nowhere and beats the hell out of them, It was great. Joe Sciacca will remember.

Keep up the good work. Cheers, Peter Lucas.

Highly entertaining stuff. I would, of course, love to post a response from Wilkie. And just to keep the historical record straight, Lucas in 1980 was working for the Hearst-owned Herald American. The modern Herald came into existence two years later, when Rupert Murdoch saved it from being shut down.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Media round-up: Losing our religion

A few local media tidbits for your perusal:

• The Boston Globe’s Michael Paulson, who may be the country’s best religion reporter working at a mainstream news organization, is taking a new position at the paper. According to the Boston Phoenix’s Adam Reilly, Paulson has been named city editor, reporting to new metro editor Jen Peter. I share Reilly’s hope that this doesn’t mean the Globe has reduced its commitment to serious coverage of religion.

• Local political junkies rejoice: Peter Lucas is back on the beat. A longtime reporter for the Phoenix and the Boston Herald, Lucas disappeared into the state bureaucracy for several decades. He has now re-emerged, and will write a twice-weekly column for the Lowell Sun, according to Jon Keller. I once had the privilege of hearing Lucas’ hilarious retelling of the “White Will Run” incident Keller describes that nearly brought a premature end to Lucas’ reporting career. I look forward to reading his Sun column.

• Sharp-eyed Universal Hubster Adam Gaffin flags a tidbit from Boston Radio Watch hinting that Greater Boston may be getting yet another talk station — WXKS (AM 1430), owned by Clear Channel. Given its weak signal, it presumably would not pose much of a threat to WRKO (AM 680), WTKK (96.9 FM) or WWZN (AM 1510) — the last a liberal station that itself is no great shakes when it comes to having a listenable signal.