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

For Amorello, a sad and ugly ending

Both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald give the front-page treatment today to former Big Dig chief Matt Amorello. Each paper also features those horrendous mug shots of Amorello, barely conscious, being held by a police officer so that his picture could be taken.

There’s a case to be made that the photos shouldn’t have been published, but I’m not going to make it here. I suspect that any impulse to hold back disappeared when Amorello himself disappeared. He later turned up at UMass Medical Center.

The two dailies offer some details (here and here) on Amorello’s slide following his forced resignation in 2006, after a woman was killed when a concrete slab fell from a Big Dig tunnel onto her car. You will find nothing surprising in either story.

The Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, whose coverage area includes Haverhill, where Amorello was arrested, sticks to what’s in the police report, as well as the observations of a few witnesses. “I’m just glad nobody got hurt,” Leonor Santos tells the paper. “We’re angry about him being drunk and driving. But thank God he’s OK. I’d rather he hit my car than the pole.”

Amorello easily could have killed someone. WBZ television and radio analyst Jon Keller writes that Amorello deserves compassion, but not forgiveness. I agree.


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  1. Steve Stein

    I like Keller’s view here, and I’m not going to comment on this story or Amorello’s current troubles.

    Perhaps unintentionally, it comes at the beginning of the month before the beginning of the New Year for Jews, in which we contemplate ways in which our behavior has fallen short of the mark.

    “We are witness daily to outrageous slanders, both personal and communal, that fill our media. Gossip columnists are folk heroes even if they are consistently wrong and vicious in their reports. We are so enamored of the affairs of others that the concept of the right to personal privacy, especially for people in the public eye, has been shredded. Personal attacks, slanderous statements, and dubious opinions about others are all now acceptable in our society. The cost of such behavior is inestimable.” (Rabbi Berel Wein)

    It would be tough to meet this standard and still do political commentary or even reporting. But at least in blog comments, I’m going to try to be more moderate and thoughtful. It might lead to me reading less political reporting, though. 🙂

  2. Laurence Glavin

    The reign of Joe Sciacca has begun, and if there was any hope that he might even off the rough edges of the Herald, the over-the-top coverage of this story belies any such assessment. And allowing his pit-bull columnist Howie Carr to regurgitate (and I mean this almost literally) all his past anti-Amarello columns on a day when he usually doesn’t publish is a cherry on top of this merde sundae. I wonder if this will be brought up on this coming Friday’s “Beat the Press”?

  3. Mike Stucka

    I think a question to ask at the outset: How clear is that there’s a fall at all? That narrative seems to be contradicted pretty well by every single quote in the Herald story.

    We’ve got family talking about him at Christmas, him meeting and greeting at a political event in January.

    Wife left him well before either of those events. Copy of resume? Lots of folks looking for work. And there’s not much else in there to suggest he’s been overcome by guilty feelings.

    The implications of both stories seems to be that after a long decline he crawled into a bottle and never came out, and the DUI is a symptom of that. That’s from the narrative, but there doesn’t seem to be any supporting evidence in the narratives of either the Globe or Herald, at least not that I saw in a quick read of each.

    So, as the son of a woman paralyzed by a drunk driver, I’ll throw this one out there: Given especially the quotes in the Herald story, could this be a guy who isn’t real big on personal responsibility having too much to drink and going for a drive somewhere? That also seems to gibe with what’s in the police report, where he seems unwilling to accept his being arrested. Is this really out of character of the arrogance he was accused of before he was forced to resign? Is this less of a “sad and ugly ending” than a continuation?

    I don’t know for sure. But to me, the narrative now picked up by the Globe, Herald, Keller and Kennedy stinks.

    And I’ll say this again: My concern is typically less for the drunken driver and more for the other people they’re putting at risk.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: I feel compassion for Amorello because of the situation in which he finds himself. I don’t feel sorry for him. And I disagree with my friend Jon Keller that Amorello is suffering because of the death of that poor woman in the tunnel. As I understand it, those ceiling tiles were installed before Amorello became head of the Turnpike Authority, and I have no doubt that he is well aware of that. Rather, I think he feels sorry mainly for himself. He had it all, and he blew it.

  4. Neil Sagan

    Wonder no longer, it’s cable catnip. And we’ll get to hear Keller’s moralizing and paper thin analysis all over again.

    Keller put the hyper in hyperbole.

    In this instance however, I do wonder from whence Keller derived his instinct for compassion.

  5. Mike Stucka

    Dan: I think if he’d run someone over instead of destroyed a car, he’d find himself in a significantly worse situation, and you’d more than likely have considerably less compassion. Fair expectation?

    The difference is apparently simply that a car was there, and someone was not on the sidewalk.

    That’s not a factor he had any control over. His control included, apparently, deciding whether he had to drive drunk, whether he had to drink too much to be able to drive safely, and whether his trip was so important that he felt it made sense. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve got damned little compassion for someone who makes those choices and winds up in trouble for it.

    As I understand the timeline with the Big Dig, he inherited a flawed project, didn’t do a good job with it, ignored a bunch of warning signs, and was already being pressured to resign well before the fatal accident. His own colleagues apparently thought he was over his head. Again, his choices. I’m not getting the compassion here.

  6. Jeffrey Cox

    Sadly, it is a story to sell papers than anything else. This man is suffering, and we are all laughing. Wrong!

    • Dan Kennedy

      This man is suffering, and we are all laughing.

      Who is “we”? Howie Carr is not a “we.”

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