Married to the Mob
By J. Max Robins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/19/2006 7:00:00 PM
Generally, I'm a 60 Minutes fan, but the opening segment of the March 12 edition of the newsmag was a glaring example of what happens when deals are cut for exclusive access and long-harbored hard feelings get in the way of sound editorial judgment. When this happens, viewers are shortchanged and a venerable franchise's image is tarnished.
The 60 Minutes segment I'm referring to centered on Kevin Weeks' just published Brutal: The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger's Irish Mob. I was well-versed in the Bulger saga. Virtually every Monday for the past six years, I've been a regular on Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr's radio talk show, which airs on Boston's WRKO and is syndicated in 12 states. It's an unpaid gig, but our magazine and Web site are mentioned.
Carr's been dogged in his coverage of Bulger. Once a Boston gangland kingpin, Bulger's charged with 20 murders and is No. 2 after Osama Bin Laden on the FBI's Most Wanted List. Bulger's been on the lam for more than a decade.
Carr has also been the nemesis of the fugitive's brother, Billy Bulger, who, as president of the Massachusetts State Senate, was a political kingpin for years. More than twenty years of covering the siblings culminated in Carr's recently published The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century, which made the New York Times Bestseller List. Carr had told me a couple of weeks before that he had been interviewed for the 60 Minutes piece on Kevin Weeks' book.
Weeks, who admits to crimes ranging from kidnapping to accessory to murder, was one of Whitey's key henchmen until he turned against his boss to get out of jail. On 60 Minutes, he told correspondent Ed Bradley how Whitey had called for Carr's execution; Weeks claims he laid in wait in a graveyard near Carr's house with a high-powered rifle but didn't pull the trigger because the columnist walked out the door with his young daughter. Weeks says he didn't think it would be fair for the kid to see her dad murdered before her eyes.
Carr tells Bradley on-camera that he didn't believe Weeks “had the stones” to kill him. Bradley never asks Weeks why he gave up on his efforts to kill Carr.
But that's not the segment's only failing. While Bradley mentions Carr's day jobs as newspaper columnist and radio host, nowhere does he mention Carr has just published his own Bulger book. “The producers told me they'd cut a deal with Weeks' publisher not to mention any other book on the subject,” says Carr. No such deal was in place, insists 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager: “That's bulls**t. That Howie Carr has a book out is not news. We're not in the business of helping Howie Carr sell his f**king book.”
Obviously, there's no love lost between Fager and Carr. The animosity dates back to 1992, when Fager was the 60 Minutes producer behind a fawning Morley Safer profile of Billy Bulger. Safer was sympathetic when Billy discussed how he has embraced his brother despite the political cost. Fager remembers how Carr lambasted the profile as a wet kiss to a corrupt politico that glossed over the pure evil of Whitey Bulger.
I asked Fager about the most egregious omission in the segment: Nowhere is Billy Bulger mentioned, though there have long been assumptions that the brothers have aided and abetted each other's careers. It's Fager's belief that Billy— driven out of his last job as president of the University of Massachusetts amidst allegations of all sorts of improprieties—is an honest guy whose reputation has been unfairly tarnished because of his brother. “Billy Bulger was not relevant to the piece,” says Fager.
I disagree. Viewers would have been better-served with the whole story.
E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
No related content found.
No Top Articles