Chuck Turner and Maureen Feeney vs. The Media and One Another


Anyone who believes that only Republicans detest the press should have checked the scene outside Boston City Hall today. Maybe reporters aren’t as biased as talk-radio blowhards allege; in the wake of City Councilor Chuck Turner’s arrest, even liberals who cheer when we expose right-wing tomfoolery are tormenting us like Howie Carr does union bosses.

Like any shrewd politician, Turner knows when to manipulate the media and when to blast us; and he simultaneously did both this afternoon in front of several dozen journalists and droves of eager loyalists. But before doing so, the secondary object of Turner’s aggression, City Council President Maureen Feeney, used a similar tactic.

Feeney got the jump on Turner’s 2:30pm Government Center rally with a 1pm press conference in City Hall’s Curley Room. At the onset she indicated that she respects Turner’s right to claim innocence, but soon after iterated that the current situation and FBI investigation compromise his councillorship.

Feeney’s message was mostly clear: Neither she nor her peers will negotiate Turner’s future at this juncture. Still, her attempt to defend the hypocritical decision to preemptively strip Turner of his committee assignments caused her to fumble some.

It’s good that Turner’s representatives relayed Feeney’s blunders to him. Her implication that she canceled this afternoon’s council meeting because his supporters might “turn the session into something that it is not” is absolutely noteworthy – even if she subsequently denied the statement and blamed the press for provoking her fear of pandemonium.  

I only wish Turner’s informants also told him that several reporters questioned Feeney about her double talk. Since nobody delivered that message, though, Turner challenged the press to confront her as if we’d bought her nonsense wholesale. It seems journalists are not the only ones who are merely interested in half the story.  

Hardly satisfied with Feeney’s calling off today’s meeting, Turner stepped to his crowd as planned. Even before a working microphone arrived, he launched into a condemnation of his colleagues and the pad-and-camera-wielding culprits who he deems responsible for his predicament.

The crowd was energized. Everyone expected fireworks, as the councilor’s operatives circulated an announcement declaring war against the media. “My main concern is that I am not being tried by a jury of my peers, I am being tried by the Globe, the Herald, Fox News, Channel 7, Channel 5, etc…,” Turner wrote and went on to say.

Vocal support rang loudly. Some folks belted pro-Chuck chants, while others were noticeably angrier. When it became obvious that the sound system was busted, one participant suggested that evildoers “Stop controlling the truth and let him be heard.” “Get him a mic,” another person yelled.   

The crowd reacted enthusiastically as Turner spoke about his dedication to constituents and objective to “liberate [his] people.” But the heaviest roars came when the councilor attacked reporters for harassing his family to the point that he had to call police yesterday. Turner even blamed the media for forgetting to zip his pants this morning.

For the record – many “employees of rich media corporations” understand why so many people are enraged. Some of us have indeed dropped unfavorable opinions about the circling scandals. The remaining question is if Turner’s supporters will in turn understand the inevitable backlash that results when politicians refer to journalists as “criminals.”    

In a line that I’m sure will be remembered long after this ordeal is over, Turner said: “Obviously, the press is working to publicly destroy my reputation before I even have an opportunity to have a day in court. Since I am being tried by the media and my fellow Councilors, I have made the decision to publicly defend myself. That is I will act as my own lawyer in this media trial in which I find myself.”

I can’t speak for other reporters in this city, but I’m willing to face Turner in his metaphorical courtroom. The only problem is that he already acquitted himself by predicting that he might go down for a crime he did not commit. In his eyes, and as far as many of his devotees are concerned, he’ll emerge a persecuted martyr regardless of whether he’s found guilty in the court of law or the court of public opinion.

As for his battle with Feeney, so far it looks like Turner might be winning that bout too. Not just because of her unilateral move to strip his committee assignments, but because of her piss-poor justification for doing so. Few would disagree – including those of us who are out to ruin Turner for no reason whatsoever – that he saw Feeney’s soft spot and stuck his finger in it.

My prediction: This is one shit fight that holiday spirit will not blow over. If you’re a member of the media or a citizen who’s interested in or concerned about Turner and the fate of black leadership in this city, the only thing to look forward to is a 10-way winter war and accusatory hail storm that will most likely last well into next year. Dress warmly. This one promises to be contentious and quarrelsome.  

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