Two Shades of Harold Brown in Boston Dailies’ Obits

February 26, 2019

In the eyes of some Bostonians, real estate magnate Harold Brown, who died on Sunday at the age of 94, was a legendary slumlord; to others he was a storied landlord and philanthropist.

In the local dailies he was both – but in separate papers.

The first sendoff came in yesterday’s Boston Herald, with the main source for Sean Philip Cotter’s piece being Brown’s rabbi.

Storied landlord Brown dies at 94

Boston native built real estate empire

Harold Brown, the storied Boston landlord who turned one small apartment building into a sprawling real estate empire, has died, according to his rabbi. He was 94.

Brown, who retired from his position atop Hamilton Co. at age 93 last year, amassed billions of dollars worth of Boston-area property over more than six decades in the real estate business and created a charitable foundation that gave to local causes.


Today the frothy local tabloid features this piece on the Obituaries page, which described Brown as being “[k]nown for his quick wit, no-nonsense approach and generosity.” But apparently that wasn’t enough hagiography for the Herald, because Howie Carr also weighs in today with this mash note.

Harold Brown: Hard worker, veteran, friend

Harold Brown was a friend of mine.

He was good to me, my family, and a lot of other people. Talk about up by the bootstraps — his mother was a fortuneteller, that’s how she put food on the table during the Depression. He was a veteran of both World War II and Korea.

When he died on Sunday, at age 94, Harold Brown was probably worth well over $1 billion. He had long ago set up a giant charitable foundation. If you walked through the door of his modest offices on Brighton Avenue with your hand out, chances are, you and your group got taken care of.


The rest of the column is classic whataboutism: Everyone greased politicians, Brown just forgot to delegate his bribery. Hey! – the Kennedys were slumlords too. That 75 State Street scandal? Brown was the victim of Whitey Bulger, not the scammer.

And etc.

Crosstown at the Boston Globe, Brown’s life is a very different story, although Bryan Marquard’s obit starts off in standard style.

HAROLD BROWN 1925-2019

Hard-driving developer reshaped housing

Harold Brown liked to tell the story of growing up so poor that his immigrant mother padlocked the icebox between meals to keep her seven hungry children from pilfering food the family would need for its next meal.

Years later he was faring better. In the mid-1950s, fresh from the success of building a doughnut shop chain, he bought his first rental property — a Commonwealth Avenue apartment building. One purchase led to another as he created a formidable real estate empire that his company estimates at $2.3 billion.


The Globe obit gives a more straightforward recounting of Brown’s legal woes and financial shenanigans, from a federal bribery conviction in 1986 to his 1991 filing for bankruptcy protection when he was $650 million in debt.

But the Globe also gives him his due on the business side (“At one point in the 1980s . . . Mr. Brown’s holdings were so expansive that he estimated he collected rent from one of every 15 tenants in Greater Boston”) and on the philanthropic front, from his establishing The Hamilton Company Charitable Foundation and contributing to Franciscan Children’s to rescuing the Coolidge Corner Theatre and donating a $2.3 million building to house the Fenway Community Health Center.

Taken all together, that’s exactly why you want to live in a two-daily town.

Battle of the Bulger (Rat-tat-Ptooey Edition)

June 13, 2013

The Boston Herald goes all news noir in today’s edition, starting with its Page One “Whitey and Crew in Their Lair” collage.


Picture 7


(Just checked – Whitey and Crew aren’t on Pinterest yet)

Inside we get this rogues’ gallery of State Police surveillance shots.


Picture 11


Crosstown at the Boston Globe, it’s Trial Coverage 101 for a non-televised case: courtroom sketches, transcript excerpts, and etc.


Picture 13


One place the two dailies do intersect, though, is in these dueling columns.


Picture 15



Picture 14


Both columnists paint Bulger’s lawyer, Jay Carney, as a man trying to lead the jury down the garden path by contending that Bulger was just a crook, not a murderer or an informant.

From Howie Carr’s column:

“Jim Bulger is of Irish descent and the worst thing an Irish person can do is become an informant.”

There’s not enough space in the paper to refute that one. So how about this one?

“Jim Bulger made millions upon millions upon millions of dollars.”

Then why are we the taxpayers picking up the tab for this “indigent” 83-year-old defendant?


From Kevin Cullen’s column:

It is obvious the defense strategy is to acknowledge that Whitey was a top echelon criminal but to refute any suggestion that he was a top echelon informant for the FBI who used his status to allow him to murder and maim with impunity.

Of course, that plays to Whitey’s grossly inflated view of himself. He was a millionaire! Admire his asset acquisition skills! He got an FBI agent to feed him information about criminal rivals and honest law enforcement efforts to nail him. Admire how he read Machiavelli and took those lessons to heart!

It’s classic Whitey: I’m the smartest guy in the room, and the rest of you are a bunch of rubes who just fell off a turnip truck.




Herald Hitches Carr to Globe

June 9, 2013

Apparently Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr has run out of ways to milk his presence on Whitey Bulger’s witness list, which would presumably keep him from covering the mobster’s trial in person.

So the feisty local tabloid has followed in the Boston Globe’s footsteps and asked the court to let their Howie go.

jacobs_howie_3-6288449Herald wants columnist in courtroom

The Boston Herald filed a request in federal court Saturday to exclude the newspaper’s columnist Howie Carr from a sequestration order that would prevent him from sitting in the courtroom during the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious gangster who has been the subject of countless Carr columns and several books.

The motion came a day after US District Court Judge Denise Casper granted a similar request from The Boston Globe to exclude veteran journalists, reporter Shelley Murphy and columnist Kevin Cullen, who wrote a book together about Bulger, from the same sequestration order. “The Boston Herald and Mr. Carr respectfully submit that the reasons supporting exemption of those journalists similarly require exclusion of Mr. Carr from the sequestration order,” the newspaper’s lawyer, Elizabeth A. Ritvo, said in the filing Saturday.


Funny thing is, that report appeared in the Globe. Nothing in the Herald about it.

The hardreading staff is checking with our Walt Whitman desk for clarification.

Battle of the Bulger (Cullen the Facts Edition)

June 8, 2013

The Boston Herald wants you to know it’s on the Whitey Bulger trial like Brown on Williamson, so they’re running this ad in today’s edition:


Picture 2


And here’s an example of that “complete coverage.”

060713bulgermg002Witness ban lifted for Globe duo

Judge Denise J. Casper ruled yesterday that Boston Globe reporter Shelley Murphy and columnist Kevin Cullen can attend James “Whitey” Bulger’s trial, exempting them from her order to keep witnesses out of the courtroom except to testify . . .

In a separate court motion yesterday, Bulger’s lawyers threatened a push to isolate the jury from the outside world throughout the expected four-month trial “if the editors of the Globe do not show better judgment in the publication of columns that are designed to sell newspapers and for-profit books written by this columnist (Cullen).”


Interesting, yes? But hardly complete.

Here’s the same issue in the Globe:

Earlier Friday, Bulger’s defense attorney J. W. Carney Jr. filed a court motion in support of the request to ban Murphy and Cullen from the courtroom, alleging that Cullen’s Friday column on Bulger was sensational and would prejudice a jury.

Carney later said he would consider asking that the jury in the case be sequestered, which would prove to be costly and a hardship for jurors, if the Globe does not “show better judgment in the publication of columns that are designed to sell newspapers and for-profit books written by this columnist.”

But Casper rejected Carney’s argument when she granted the newspaper’s request to exclude Cullen and Murphy from the courtroom during testimony, noting the journalists’ constitutional rights in reporting on Bulger’s past and covering his trial.

Casper said she read the column Friday morning and indicated it seemed to support the Boston Globe’s argument, telling Carney, “From a 1st Amendment point of view I don’t know if it lends more support to your position, or more support to your opposing party’s point of view.”


[To be sure graf goes here.]

To be sure, both papers are pursing their own interests: the Herald to make the Globe look bad, the Globe to make itself look good. (The stately local broadsheet for the most part doesn’t concern itself with the feisty local tabloid.)

That’s all to be expected. But hey, Heraldniks: Complete coverage? Try again.

Battle of the Bulger (Can I Be a Witness? Edition)

June 7, 2013

The Boston Globe is reporting on its website that its reporters can cover the trial of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger.

Judge rejects Bulger effort to ban Globe journalists

US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper ruled today that Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen and reporter Shelley Murphy can cover the trial of James “Whitey’’ Bulger, the South Boston gangster who was recorded on jailhouse tapes describing his disdain for the two journalists who have chronicled his career for decades . . .

Bulger’s defense team put Cullen and Murphy on their witness list, saying they might need to be called to impeach testimony from key prosecution witnesses. But federal prosecutors, citing comments Bulger made in the jail conversations, said he was motivated by his disdain towards Cullen and Murphy.


The feeling is, of course, mutual, as Cullen’s column in today’s dead-tree edition illustrates.

I’ll be glad to submit some sample testimony right here so they can decide whether they really want to call me as a defense witness.de5e692f74914a5487db1f8aabf250e4-de5e692f74914a5487db1f8aabf250e4-0

I believe Whitey Bulger is a deeply cynical and vicious criminal who made millions by killing and intimidating people while he was protected by a deeply corrupted FBI.

I believe he made millions from the drug trade, extorting money from drug dealers even as he and his apologists propagated the nonsense that he never was involved in drugs.


And etc. in much the same vein. Except all that’s, well, moot now.

But not yet for Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, who’s also on Bulger’s witness list and has not been dismissed from it by today’s ruling. So Carr can continue to produce drive-bys like Wednesday’s piece:

Picture 8No question about it, I’ll find courtside seat

First I tried to get a victim’s seat in the courtroom — no go.

Then I figured I’d just attend Whitey’s trial as a reporter — but Bulger put me on his witness list, although I am confident the judge will eventually decide to allow me to watch the trial, even if I do have to be a witness — a hostile witness, that is.

But given my dismal record in court, I don’t want to take any chances. So I filled out a jury questionnaire just in case that might get me inside.


And etc. – including most notably Question 39:

Based upon any … articles you have read, have you formed an opinion regarding James “Whitey” Bulger that would prevent you from being a fair and impartial juror in this case?

I think I read several hundred times in the Globe that, “Jimmy kept the drugs out of Southie.” Is that true?


The hardreading staff can’t really say, but maybe Kevin Cullen can.


Whitey Wars in Local Dailies

April 10, 2013

From our Dueling Excerpts desk

For the past three days, the Boston Herald has been excerpting columnist Howie Carr’s new book Rifleman: The Untold Story of Stevie Flemmi, Whitey Bulger’s Partner.

(The hardreading staff suspects that lots of the book is Carr’s Already Told Story of Stevie Flemmi, but we can’t say for sure since we have no intention of actually reading the book or the excerpts.)

Regardless, today’s Herald features the final excerpt in the three-part series:

010504rico‘Rifleman’: Agent Rico and Stevie like blood brothers

FBI always had a place for the thug

Gangster Stevie “the Rifleman” Flemmi is due in Boston in June to testify in his longtime underworld partner Whitey Bulger’s federal murder trial. In today’s excerpt from my new book, “Rifleman,” based on Flemmi’s 2003 confession, he details some of his dealings with corrupt FBI agent H. Paul Rico:

When they first met in 1958, Rico was a young FBI agent and Flemmi was an up-and-coming hoodlum. Pretty soon they were, you might say, thick as thieves.


And etc.

Previous excerpts include this:


Picture 1

And this:


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All three come in the wake of the Boston Globe’s relentless promotion of the Kevin Cullen/Shelly Murphy book Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice. From the Globe’s February 10 front-page advertorial:

51YOYTrt7cLA window into Whitey’s brutal life and mind

New biography traces Bulger’s rise, reign, and the reckoning ahead

As he sits brooding in his drab cell awaiting trial, South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger is telling friends that while he feels tortured by his cramped captivity, with its isolation, strip searches, and dismal food, he is ready and eager for “the big show” — the trial where he will defend his sense of honor if not exactly his innocence . . .

Bulger’s generous view of himself, not as a cunning killer and cynical informer but as a criminal with scruples and a kind of noble romantic, is detailed in a new and comprehensive biography of Boston’s most infamous criminal, to be published this week. Also detailed are all the reasons not to accept his self-serving self-portrait, from his long and murderous career as a gangster to his well-documented history of providing information to the FBI.


That would be Cullen and Murphy’s book, which was not only flogged on the Globe’s front page, but in numerous fiull-page ads like this as well:


Picture 3



The hardguessing staff’s conclusion: The Cullen/Murphy book will do a lot better than Carr’s cut ‘n’ paste job.

We’ll leave it to you to check the Amazon numbers.


Whitey Bulger Moll 1.0 Edition

August 19, 2012

Atop yesterday’s Boston Globe Metro section:

Teresa Stanley, Bulger’s other longtime mate, dead at 71

She was the other woman in James “Whitey” Bulger’s life, the one who spent nearly 30 years with the gangster but refused to leave her family to stay with him on the run.

Teresa Stanley died of lung cancer Thursday morning at her home in South Boston, surrounded by her family. She was 71.

And the Boston Herald?

The dime-droppin’, mob-mockin’ feisty local tabloid had  . . . nothin’.

The Saturday Herald headline that wasn’t:

Bulger Now Minus His Reluctant Plus One

Instead, the Herald had this lame website caboose yesterday afternoon:

Teresa Stanley, former Whitey moll, dies of lung cancer at 71

Teresa Stanley, the onetime Whitey Bulger moll who left behind a cross-country life on the lam to return to her family in South Boston, has died of lung cancer, her family said. She was 71.

“She was truly just a beautiful woman,” her son-in-law, Ron Adams, told the Herald. “To look at her, you would know that. But what a lot of people didn’t know is how beautiful she was on the inside as well.”

Yeah, except the Globe’s quote from Adams was much better:

“She was a beautiful person, both inside and out, who carried herself with tremendous grace and dignity, at times under some difficult and challenging circumstances,” her son-in-law, Ron Adams, said Friday during a brief telephone interview. “She died peacefully surrounded by her family and friends. She will be missed by all.”

Bottom line: The Herald got totally pwned by the Globe on this story.

Whitey Bulger Testify Edition

August 7, 2012

Most Bostonians thought they’d never live long enough to see this headline in the Boston Globe:

Bulger plans to take stand in his defense

What follows is a straightforward recounting of what J.W. Carney Jr., Whitey Bulger’s lawyer, told news organizations yesterday:

James “Whitey” Bulger, once America’s most wanted criminal, will for the first time address the charges against him, taking the stand in his own defense in hope of convincing a jury that federal officials once granted him immunity for his many crimes, his lawyer said Monday.

J.W. Carney Jr. announced that plan during a hearing in US District Court in Boston. He said Bulger wants to provide a firsthand account of his relationship with the FBI and the deal he had for working secretly as a government informant.

“He is going to tell the truth, if the judge permits him to,” Carney later told reporters outside the federal courthouse.

The Boston Herald, not to be outdone, has two straightforward recountings of what Carney said (here and here).

So that’s a wash. It’s the columnists who provide today’s compare-and-contrast moment.

First, Herald resident wise guy, Howie Carr.

There are three chances of Whitey Bulger testifying at his own trial next March.

Slim, fat and none.

As a taxpayer, I demand a refund from Whitey’s public defender J.W. Carney. Is this the best you can do, Jay?

And it’s not just Howie who says that.

“I guarantee you that punk won’t take the stand,” Boston defense attorney Tony Cardinale was saying last night.

Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, though has a different take in this web piece that didn’t make the hardreading staff’s copy of the paper:

Did you really think that Whitey Bulger was going to sit there in the courthouse named after his old neighbor Joe Moakley and merely take notes on a yellow legal pad while federal prosecutors painted him as a killer of women, an enabler of drug dealers, and, egads, worst of all, a rat?

It was always in the cards that Whitey Bulger was going to take the stand in his own defense. His lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., has been saying as much for much of the last year, making it official with Monday’s announcement.

The only surprise is that anybody’s surprised. Whitey may be venal but he ain’t stupid. What’s he got to lose? This is the last dance. He has one shot to counter the prevailing image that took hold while he and Cathy Greig spent what Judge Doug Woodlock deliciously called “16 years of extended banality” on the run.

Who’s right? Flip a coin. Then wait until March.