Duke: Cool with Jerry, Not with Howie

Alex Beam’s column today is another phoned-in meta job of little interest to anyone, but there’s a nice bit at the end about a new biography of longtime Boston talkmeister Jerry Williams that’s worth noting. The book’s called Burning Up the Air, and it’s blurbed by none other than longtime Williams target Mike Dukakis. “Pretty darned gracious … to blurb this book,” Beam writes, “after all the [blank] that Williams threw his way. There is money in hate, but there is power in love. That is a lesson only half-learned by the O’Reillys and Carrs of the world.”

As anyone who has the pleasure of interviewing the Duke today will attest, the man is a class act, candid, charismatic and smart. But seeing his name next to Carr’s reminded me of an interview I did with him some months back in preparation for the profile I wrote on his old friend Billy Bulger. He was talking about the press’s fixation on the Bulger brothers, and that flowed into a couple shots at another old antagonist, Howie Carr, whose book, it should be noted, he did not blurb.

MD: So, [the Bulger brothers is] a tantalizing story once, but why is it a tantalizing story 15 times later? And they’re always these goddamn leaks out of the U.S. Attorney’s office—they ought to be ashamed of themselves—and out of the FBI, which itself is a criminal offense, you know, leaking that stuff. But, it happens all the time–about this and that and he’s going to be called before a grand jury–and then it dies down. Six years later, there’s another sighting, and we’ve got to read about it again. It must be very tough on him. You know, and I said to [reporters], ‘Just tell me what do you want him to say?’ Things happen; it’s a big family. The whole thing was just so absolutely irrational, and I think really unfair.

JK: But it just won’t die.

MD: Then, you’ve got idiots like Carr who—

JK: Did you read his book?

MD: Who, Carr’s? No, I wouldn’t waste my time. Are you kidding? The guy’s a psychopath—he’s terrible. You know what—who was the guy? He was a liberal columnist for the New York Post—Murray Kempton. He used to say—present company excluded—he used to say, ‘Look, I’ve got a daughter who is a reporter for public radio in Colorado. Journalists do not have thin skin; they have no skin. And Carr is a classic. He dishes it out with all this baloney, but god forbid you ever say anything about them.

Those guys, I just don’t pay any attention to. When people would run into my office when I was governor and say, “Did you see what Carr said?” I said, “No, I never read him.” I said, “Look, the guy’s got a total 60,000 readers; that leaves us with 5,940,000 other people in the state who we can go to work on who don’t even know he exists. So, let’s not waste our time with this guy.” But if you’ve got a responsible journalist who is critical of you, pay attention. He’s probably right.