Dan Barry on Buddy Cianci

Dan Barry, former ProJo scribe-turned-NY Times reporter-and-acclaimed author, makes another one of his occasional forays back to Rhode Island, offering a sharp column today on Buddy Cianci and his perch at WPRO:

At first, Mr. Cianci says, “I was rather docile on the air,” calling a couple of new buildings ugly, criticizing a tax break. But when a city official took the Cianci name in vain again before the City Council, the former mayor chose a road — it wasn’t the high one — and he zeroed in on his successor’s administration.

“When I was locked up, I don’t recall those guys having any qualms saying things about me,” he says. Of course, “those guys” were cleaning up the mess created in part by his betrayal of the public trust.

On the air, Mr. Cianci, 66, tends to tiptoe past the circumstances behind his racketeering conviction (other than to joke that he has a pet dog named Rico); past the corruption that infected his administration, reflected in the F.B.I. videotape of his top aide taking bribes; past the police scandal in which favored officers received advance information about tests for promotions.

Instead, he gleefully attacks Mayor Cicilline and his police commander, Dean M. Esserman. Intermixed with sharp analysis and legitimate criticism — of the city’s poor response to a snowstorm, for example — are taunts and half-truths, released into the radio air like toxic puffs. ....

When asked about this, Mr. Cianci says his job is to be an entertainer, and his on-air persona should not be confused with the real — and changed — Buddy Cianci. Besides, he adds, because he cannot help himself: “I do think they like each other.”

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