Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Globe suspends Kevin Cullen three months without pay for fabricating details about Marathon bombings

Alex Reimer
June 15, 2018 - 6:49 pm

The Boston Globe announced Friday it will suspend columnist Kevin Cullen without pay for three months after confirming he fabricated details about the Boston Marathon bombings when reporting on the terrorist attack. WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan” first exposed the inaccuracies

Cullen, who’s been on paid administrative leave since April 20, acknowledged his wrongdoings in an email to Globe publisher John Henry and editor Brian McGrory last month. “I own what I did,” he wrote, per the Globe. “I accept responsibility for these shortcomings and I’m sorry that it has allowed some to attack the Globe itself.”

The newspaper says it conducted two reviews of Cullen’s work. One focused solely on his columns and interviews in the aftermath of the bombings. It was conducted by Kathleen Carroll, the former executive editor of the Associated Press, and Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University.

Carroll and Fiedler found numerous falsehoods in Cullen’s remarks about the 2013 bombings, which killed three and injured 264. At an academic conference in August 2013, Cullen made up a story about chatting with a fire official outside the Eire Pub in Dorchester on the night of the bombings, in which he claims the official implored him to contact firefighter Sean O’Brien, whom Cullen says found Martin Richard. Cullen says he reached O’Brien, but could not convince him to join for a drink. 

O’Brien told Carroll and Fiedler he didn't speak with Cullen that night, and only met him for the first time the following day. 

In a radio interview on April 16, 2013, Cullen also lied and said O’Brien tried to find the missing leg of Jane Richard, Martin’s sister. The investigators called Cullen’s story “crazy.” O'Brien told Kirk Minihane in April he never said he attempted to search for Jane Richard's limb in any conversation with Cullen. 

Cullen told the investigators he does not remember which firefighter he was referring to. As an explanation for the lie, Cullen said he had been “up all night drinking” when he made the false statement. 

“It strains credulity that on one of the most searing days of his professional life he had deeply emotional conversations with someone he cared about, but now does not remember who it was,” the report said. “It is also clear that one thing he told some interviewers — that he was talking to a firefighter named Sean — cannot be true,” the report reads.

Cullen also wrongly wrote on April 16, 2013 that Martin Richard was killed after hugging his father at the finish line. Bill Richard didn’t run that day.

In addition, Cullen misled readers on his five-year Marathon anniversary column this year, writing he can remember the “smell” and “taste” of the bombings, even though he wasn’t at the finish line when they exploded. The report, however, says Cullen’s exaggeration wasn’t intentional.

A separate report, which was compiled by two Globe editors, randomly reviewed 100 of Cullen’s previous columns. It didn’t find any fabrications, outside of small technical errors.

Cullen will be a general assignment reporter for two months when he returns to the paper. Then he is expected to resume his duties as a columnist. The Boston Newspaper Guild says it will fight Cullen’s suspension.

“Our review leads us to a conclusion that Mr. Cullen damaged his credibility,” Henry and McGrory wrote in their letter to readers Friday. “These were serious violations for any journalist and for the Globe, which relies on its journalists to adhere to the same high standards of ethics and accuracy when appearing on other platforms. Our review also leads us to believe that Mr. Cullen did not commit irrevocable damage.”

The full Marathon review can be found here

The column review can be found here

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