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

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.

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  1. Al Quint

    I’ve often wondered if that’s happened other times on “Greater Boston” i.e. segments having to be scrapped or re-shot because guests have had heated confrontations with each other.

  2. I had White at BU in 1988. When I asked him about “White Won’t Run,” he gave that Kevin White grin and said “Maybe I just changed my mind.”

  3. wilson tisdale

    Peter Lucas is an excellent reporter. George Regan…

  4. Mike Benedict

    What’s humorous about the Globe recount is how both Lucas and Regan agree (indirectly) that Lucas did NOT directly ask White the question about running again. How much of this would be a non-story had Lucas not admittedly beaten around the bush? Who teaches these guys not to be direct, anyway?

  5. Laurence Kranich

    The original Herald story betrayed a bit of doubt about Kevin White’s truthfulness. The story said “Peter Lucas has learned” that White would run again, not “The Boston Herald has learned.” That caught my eye on Day One, and even though they went with the famous banner headline, they still held back, for some reason, from 100% commitment.

  6. Lou Gawab

    Important to tell people that the program did not air the segment when they “went at it”.

    They “went at it”…and then re-taped the segment….

    But if you read the Globe account of the argument, THEN look at the clip at the end of the program, it explains why Regan is uptight nervous and barely spitting out his words. (Or does he always talk that way?)

    It also explains why Lucas was pretty mellow…and referred to the issue as one of the “myths” of history (which was a strange way to begin the conversation without any further explanation.)

  7. Rick Peterson

    I keep hearing about how White brought “the best and brightest” into politics. There are those who might agree to disagree on that one….

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