Menino versus Breen: who's in the right?


Both the Globe and the Herald spend some time today on a dust-up between Boston Mayor Tom Menino and BU law professor Dave Breen. The spat in question stemmed from Breen's assertion--at a recent mayoral forum sponsored by DotOUT--that Menino gets a free pass for his peripheral involvement with South Boston's gay-banning St. Patrick's Day parade, while Michael Flaherty, Breen's preferred candidate, gets hammered for marching in the event. This discrepancy is unfair, Breen said, given that Menino attends house parties near the parade and shakes hands along the route. Menino then took vigorous issue with Breen's argument, calling him a "liar."

So who's in the right? For its part, the Globe doesn't really answer the question:

At one point, Menino pointedly challenged a supporter of City Councilor Michael F. Flaherty, who spoke to the gathering about the politics of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, whose organizers refuse to allow gay groups to register and march. The Flaherty supporter, David J. Breen, told the crowd that the mayor gets an unfair pass from the gay and lesbian community because, while he shuns the parade, he attends house parties and, according to Breen, also shakes hands along the route....

“From the back of the room, I heard someone say, ‘That’s a lie. That’s a lie,’ and I was stunned to see my former boss calling me a liar,’’ said Breen, a law professor at Boston University who was formerly a lawyer for the City of Boston. “As you can imagine, it’s a little intimidating to see the mayor of Boston call you a liar.’’

When Breen confronted the mayor about his reply, Menino shot back, “That’s what you are, pal,’ ’’ according to Breen.

The mayor responded strongly because he did not appreciate the suggestion that his attendance at house parties on the parade route was tantamount to marching in the parade, which he has long boycotted because of his support for gay rights, said Nick Martin, a Menino campaign spokesman.

“He felt like David was attacking his character and, justifiably, he defended himself and made it known that it was a lie that they were trying to spread,’’ Martin said, disputing Breen’s assertion that Menino works the sidelines of the parade.

Of course, Menino either shakes hands along the route or doesn't. So which is it?

Take it away, Boston Herald!

[Breen] suggested that Menino, meanwhile, has gotten a pass, arguing the mayor in effect does march by walking along the sides of the route shaking hands and attending house parties.

“The mayor said, very loudly, ‘Let’s get this rumor out. That’s a lie.’ And raised his voice. He was hot,” recalled Sue O’Connell, who moderated the event. She said when Breen replied, “That’s the first time I’ve ever been called a liar by a candidate for mayor,” Menino shot back, “Because that’s what you are.”

Nick Martin, a Menino spokesman, said the mayor never lost his cool but took strong exception to Breen suggesting he participates in the parade. “The mayor has never walked in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade because it’s not inclusive of all communities. He has been at the forefront for the gay rights and marriage equality issues,” Martin said.

O’Connell, co-publisher of Bay Windows, a New England-based gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender newspaper, said she feels Menino is “not marching in the parade” even though he attends it. “His working the sidelines and going to parties is an acceptable political compromise, which does not affect his conviction for standing up for our rights,” she said.

But Breen said, “To me that is not a boycott. A boycott is that you stay home.”

Let's recap: the publisher of Boston's gay and lesbian paper of record says Menino "work[s] the sidelines and goe[s] to parties," but that this is acceptable, because Menino doesn't actually march in the parade itself.

I wasn't at the event, and it's possible that the Globe and/or the Herald have omitted a key detail or two. But unless they did, or unless McConnell got the scope of Menino's involvement in the Southie parade wrong--and I'm guessing she didn't--I'd say Dave Breen got a raw deal here.

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