William Bulger Is Not a “Ruthless Killer”

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2013 at 1:18 am


Last week, I wrote about a recent news article which falsely stated that William Bulger had “lost his job as president of the University of Massachusetts.”  Yet today, I stumbled upon an article which left me far more speechless.  Published by a London-based periodical, The Independent, the article’s headline and web page header boldly declare as follows: “Ruthless killer or Robin Hood?  Mob boss William Bulger to stand trial.”

What’s wrong with that picture?

I initially stumbled upon it during a routine Google search of William Bulger’s name, as shown in this screenshot:


As you can see, this website was listed on the first page of results out of more than 1.5 million hits.  The obvious problem is that, despite this misleading headline, the body of the article is about James “Whitey” Bulger, an older brother of William Bulger.

Why do I take a particular issue with this?

In short, William Bulger is a man who has committed more than 40 years of his life to public service from when he was first elected to serve in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, to his election to the State Senate, and finally his leadership role as the longest serving Senate President in the lengthy history of Massachusetts.

Retiring from the State Senate, William Bulger went onwards to a new role as President of the University of Massachusetts in 1996, where he excelled and expanded that institution’s educational mission.  In the past, he has also served as a Trustee of the Boston Public Library, Member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Overseers, Trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, and Trustee of Massachusetts General Hospital.

He did all of this — and more — while raising nine children who have produced a total of 33 grandchildren, living for most of that time in the same modest South Boston home with his wife of 53 years.  How can such a man, who has dedicated his entire adult life to improving the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, be confused for a “ruthless killer”?

It is quite impossible to imagine how the name of William Bulger could be confused with James “Whitey” Bulger.  When have we ever seen any other public figure’s name misapplied to the name of an accused criminal?  It’s like confusing Duke Ellington with Duke Cunningham, or William J. Jefferson with William Jefferson Clinton, or Bernie Madoff with Bernie Mac, or James Earl Ray with James Earl Jones.

Then, there are other family members like Victoria Gotti, daughter of Gambino crime family leader John Gotti.  For that namesake, Victoria secured her own reality television show entitled “Growing Up Gotti,” which frequently depicted the mischievous exploits of her three Gotti boys gleefully cruising around the grounds of their palatial mansion on ATVs.  As fate would have it, however, there was never any reality series in development for “Growing Up Bulger.”

The very fact is that the life of William Bulger epitomizes public service at a time when the airwaves, Internet, and ink media are regularly plagued by yet another report of government corruption.  Speaking of which, Bernard Kerik was recently released from the federal penitentiary.  This corruption pandemic proliferates all levels of government, from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to Connecticut Governor John Rowland, to former New York Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, to former New York Senator Hiram Monserrate, to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, to New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook.  In such a sea of misdeeds, why is William Bulger such a target — why does it sometimes seem that we have come to expect corruption in our public servants, more than we expect integrity and honor?

Whatever the reason, it is inherently wrong and blatantly irrational for an individual to be so demeaned, after representing the highest standards of conduct which public service demands of anyone within its province.  Indeed, the National Conference of State Legislatures has even honored one of its most prestigious awards with his name: The William M. Bulger Excellence in State Leadership Award.

Perhaps part of the problem in public service today is the frenzied focus upon the many ways by which the People’s duly elected representatives do wrong and violate the public’s trust, instead of showcasing the road where a virtuous public service career should lead.

William Bulger still led us all down that road, even when there were few who thanked him.

  1. Great post! The media has become lazy and craven.

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