Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr may have bigger problems with David Boeri than with Whitey Bulger or Kevin Weeks. Boeri, a respected reporter for WCVB-TV (Channel 5), has written an exhaustive deconstruction of Carr’s much-hyped book, “The Brothers Bulger,” for the new Boston Phoenix.
The numerous Carr errors that Boeri cites strike me as piddling for the most part, although I can understand why someone who has done as much reporting on the story as Boeri has would be irritated. Probably the most egregious error Boeri alleges involves what might be called “the tale of two cars.” It’s arcane, but it speaks to the crucial question of how hard the FBI did or didn’t try to find Bulger when he disappeared a decade ago.
More damaging to Carr is what all these small errors add up to: that “The Brothers Bulger” is little more than a clip job, pieced together from what reporters for the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald have written over the years — right down to the inevitable mistakes that get made in the rush of daily journalism, but that certainly should have been fixed before being placed between two hard covers. As Boeri tells it, Carr just didn’t have the time to do any original reporting for his own book.
As Boeri observes, Carr is hardly the Lone Ranger of the Bulger saga. A host of first-rate Boston journalists have unearthed voluminous amounts of information about Bulger and his corrupt ties to the FBI. Carr, despite his self-styled persona as the world’s oldest juvenile delinquent, is a reliable and fearless reporter, which Boeri acknowledges. But so are current and former Globe reporters such as Dick Lehr, Gerry O’Neill, Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy, all of whom come in for kudos from Boeri. So is Boeri himself.
Though Boeri doesn’t name names at the Herald, columnist Peter Gelzinis immediately comes to mind as someone who was every bit as courageous as Carr in his willingness to go after Bulger — and Gelzinis did it while living on the Bulgers’ turf, in South Boston, rather than in the wealthy suburbs. (Not that it matters. If former Bulger associate Kevin Weeks is telling the truth, Carr’s living in Acton was no obstacle to the Bulger gang’s almost taking murderous revenge. Carr today lives in the even-more-upscale Wellesley.)
Will Carr fire back? He’s certainly got plenty of opportunities — in the Herald, on his radio show on WRKO (AM 680) and on either of his two Web sites (click here and here). My guess is that he won’t. Boeri is too respected, and he’s got the goods.
Besides, Boeri isn’t accusing Carr of being an unethical journalist — just lazy. I suspect Carr can live with that, as long as the checks keeps rolling in.