By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Sign language

On WRKO Radio (AM 680) this morning, Scott Allen Miller is raising a ruckus because “taxpayers” several years ago refurbished the landmark Citgo sign in Kenmore Square. Citgo, you see, is owned by the Venezuelan government, and Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, went off on President Bush yesterday.

Trouble is, Miller was wrong — in fact, Citgo refurbished the sign at its own expense, replacing the tubes with LEDs. Miller suggested that Mayor Tom Menino show the “courage” to turn off the sign. But as the Boston Globe’s Megan Tench reported in March 2005, it was actually Citgo, 20 years earlier, that wanted to turn it off, only to be told that the city wouldn’t stand for it.

Tench’s story does not say how much Citgo spent. But an op-ed piece published in the Globe the same day by U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., said it cost the company $1.5 million.

You can think what you want about Chávez’s outburst, Delahunt’s cozy relations with the Venezuelan government or whether Menino should turn off the sign. But the truth is that the refurbished sign was a gift from Venezuela to the people of Boston.

Update: Miller is challenging my account. I’ve asked for documentation. Stay tuned.

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  1. Charles Foster Kane

    C’mon Dan, you know it isn’t fair to point out the truth! What I find most interesting is that are apparently no repercussions for lying, or at least for not bothering to do a shred of research for one’s show. You would think that Miller would have more pride in his work than to just make things up. Shows like Miller’s are less and less about “news” and “ideas” and “facts” and are more and more about self-aggrandizing theater.By the way, bonus points to Citgo for using a more energy efficient light source.

  2. Kristine

    I’ve recently been contemplating writing a blog post about my hatred for WRKO and Scott Allen Miller in particular.I agree with Charles; the Scott Allen Miller is hardly a news program…it’s mostly a display of egotism.

  3. John Galt

    Miller was born (hatched?) wrong. Just another oink, oink polluting our airwaves.

  4. tony schinella

    WRKO hasn’t been good since Jerry Williams was kicked off the air.

  5. Scott Allen Miller

    I didn’t say the Boston taxpayer refurbished the sign, Dan, but according to media reports last year when the sign was refurbished, the Boston taxpayer does pay to light it. Some “gift”! Would we be as supportive of an Exxon sign?The sign has been shut off before in 1973 and 1979, the latter time by Gov Ed King to send a message about energy conservation, an important message even today. But Venezuela didn’t own Citgo back then. Venezuela bought 50% of Citgo (and the sign) in 1986 and the rest in 1990. Marketing Citgo simply enriches Hugo Chavez. You can read about his human rights record here.So yeah. I did the research, “Charles Foster Kane”.PS: I DON’T DO A NEWS PROGRAM.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Scott — Care to post the transcript of your show from yesterday between 6:45 and 7 a.m.? Or the audio? And what specific “media reports” can you point to that say the taxpayers are picking up the cost of lighting it?

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Scott — P.S. You tell us that you don’t do a news program, but here’s the press release that WRKO put out when you were first made the solo morning host. A highlight: “Miller is at the helm of a show that has the feel of both a news program and talk program…” Your then-boss, Brian Whittemore, is quoted as saying that the program “combines news and talk.” Perhaps there’s been a format change — I notice that the show is no longer called “Boston This Morning.” Does that mean you were a news guy, but now you’re not?

  8. Scott Allen Miller

    Hang on a second here, Dan. I have to document *your* claims about what I said to prove I didn’t say it? You’re a journalist, so why don’t you document your claim, or at least quote me directly? You couldn’t write a story, attribute a comment to someone, and then when challenged on it demand that person prove they didn’t say that. So why would you blog it?I don’t have a recording of yesterday’s show so there’s no way to transcribe it for you. However, I do know what I said because I know what I believe. I don’t believe taxpayers refurbished the sign — now or even in 1983 — so I didn’t say it.I am not and never was a “news guy”/reporter. The Boston This Morning format was, as the press release accurately states, a mix of news and talk/analysis/commentary. The news was provided by our news department, which I’m not a part and never have been. The rest of the show was talk/analysis/commentary by yours truly, guests, and occasional callers. We’re now (back to) doing a more conventional call-in talk show format with fewer guests, but my role remains the same while the news department continues in its role. Think op/ed page vs front page. I’m more like the former than the latter.

  9. Charles Foster Kane

    You don’t have a recording of your own show? Or do you mean you don’t have one available right now to check what you said?

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Scott — Your Web site says that “the city pays to light it [the Citgo sign] up every night.” That’s a claim you’re making, and I’m asking you to cite the “media reports” where you say you learned that.Sorry for not rolling tape and taking notes while I’m driving to work. But you are still saying that city taxpayers are picking up the tab. Documentation?

  11. Laura Crimaldi

    For what it’s worth, Citgo spokesman Fernando Garay told me this morning that Citgo Oil pays the electricity bill for the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square. I co-wrote a story for today’s Boston Herald about Boston City Councilor Jerry McDermott’s proposal to have the Citgo sign replaced with an American flag.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Laura — Thanks for checking in. Here is the story she and Renee Nadeau wrote for today’s Herald.

  13. Charles Foster Kane

    Sure Scott, blame it on “media reports”. It’s always someone else’s fault isn’t it? Just admit that you said and wrote something that isn’t correct. It happens to all of us.

  14. BosPhotog

    I am walking in on this a bit late but,let me get this straight…It is now 7:15pm and the ‘RKO site STILL says that the city pays for the electric bill for the Citgo sign and it’s been hours since Dan Kennedy and the Herald’s Laura Crimaldi seemingly put the kibosh on that “theory” and Scotto has been privy to this? One would think that the responsible thing for Scotto to do is to call his ‘RKO bosses and tell them that he was wrong and spare the viewers of that website an outright falsehood….

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Just thought I’d post an update on where this stands. As of this moment, the Web site for Miller’s show still includes the following: “Citgo is basically owned by the government of Venezuela, and the city pays to light up the sign every night.”I’m waiting for tomorrow’s Herald (perhaps the Globe will weigh in as well), but I think it’s now been pretty firmly established that Citgo pays its electric bill just like anyone else. As for the “media reports” that Miller cites, the Globe, the Herald and the AP all covered the story when the refurbished sign was unveiled in March 2005. None of those stories said tax money was being used in any way. Perhaps Miller has something else, but in neither of his visits here has he responded to my request for documentation.Miller’s not a bad guy, but you’ve got to admit when you’re wrong. I heard from a friend a little while ago that he went off on me on the air this morning. I hope he at least gave the URL for Media Nation. And by the way, I challenge him to post the transcript or sound clip of that as well.As for admitting it when you’re wrong: I’ll accept Miller at his word that he didn’t mean to suggest that Boston taxpayers had footed the bill for refurbishing the sign, although he certainly left me with that impression. I do think it’s safe to say that he did not tell his listeners Citgo had forked over $1 million of its own money.

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