City's media enable Rivers’s hustle

Rivers v. Maria Stephanos: The Fox 25 news anchor grilled the Dorchester minister on a newscast last Thursday evening about his failure to vote in elections dating back to at least 1983. Rivers v. Maria Stephanos: The Fox 25 news anchor grilled the Dorchester minister on a newscast last Thursday evening about his failure to vote in elections dating back to at least 1983.

Thanks to some good reporting this week from the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker, Eugene Rivers was finally exposed and dressed-down.

Walker took the time and effort to verify what many Boston insiders have long suspected: Rivers – who shamelessly shops himself around to politicians desperate for a high-profile endorsement from a black minister – does not bother to vote himself. Not for mayor last Tuesday. Not for President Obama, or Deval Patrick, or one of their opponents. And, not even for Mel King, the 1983 mayoral finalist whose campaign he allegedly worked on.

[Disclosure: Rivers also did not vote for state Rep. Nick Collins of South Boston, whom he endorsed over my wife, Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, in a special election last spring. A further disclosure: Reporters in this newsroom have been advised to seek out voices other than Rivers’s for years –because long before any relative of mine entered politics, we held him in low regard.]

It is now well-established and beyond dispute that Rivers is a fraud and a hypocrite. Period.

Which raises a big question: Why is this individual, who has such little credibility within our community, continually pushed forward as our mouthpiece by legitimate news organizations in this town, some of whom have been bamboozled by this con artist for decades now? The media outlets that pay Rivers to misrepresent himself, and the communities of color whom he purports to represent, will owe their listeners, viewers, and readers an apology if they persist in the transgression.

Exhibit A is the Boston Herald, which has the dubious distinction of giving Rivers a front-page platform to lay out his hypocritical drivel in the first place. The Herald newsroom has dutifully ignored the revelations made by their daily competitor. Instead, they gave Rivers another 600 words to mount his lame defense. We reached out to the Herald’s editor to ask what sort of arrangement they have with Rivers, but got no response.

WGBH radio, where Rivers is paid an undisclosed, but “modest” sum to talk politics with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on their daily news program, is a different story. Rivers’ s foolishness has definitely not escaped their attention.

“We share the same concerns that are raised,” news director Ted Canova told the Reporter on Tuesday.

“The reverend will appear Monday with Jim and Margery to address the issue in studio. We’ll see where we go from there after Monday.”

‘GBH insiders we’ve talked to say that an internal debate has raged within their ranks since the moment Eagan and Braude added Rivers to their line-up earlier this year. Long before last week’s meltdown, wiser heads in the newsroom warned that Rivers would muddy their brand. Now that that has happened, we’ll see how they respond.

Fox 25 news anchor Maria Stephanos was appropriately nonplussed as she grilled Rivers about his ballot-box phobia last Friday. In the interview, Rivers acknowledged his “sins,” but then urged Stephanos and the press corps to accompany him to the polls in November. Stephanos said that the station would. Maria and Team Fox: Please, don’t take the bait!

The best listening post of the last week for reaction to the self-immolation of Rivers’s credibility was on a radio station that few, if any, of the region’s media titans listen to. They should tune into Touch 106.1 FM once in a while for a dose of what regular Bostonians of color think.

As the on-air hosts replayed the Stephanos interview and dissected the story (and Rivers) last Friday morning, the phone lines blew up with caller after caller condemning not just the hustler, but his media enablers. The gist of nearly every call was: “Why has the Boston media picked this fool to misrepresent our voice?”

To many, the Rivers situation cements their view that mainstream media entities in this town have intentionally sought to minimize or undermine their community’s increasingly powerful voice. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment, given the otherwise intelligent and respectable people who aid and abet Rivers to this day.


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