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The truth about Portnoy's complaints

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You have crossed the line of tastelessness when even Howard Stern, who has made a fortune personifying tastelessness, says you’ve crossed the line.

That’s what happened yesterday to Barstool Sports owner David Portnoy, a.k.a. el presidente, when the embattled blogger went on the shock jock’s show to talk about the tempest swirling over his posting and crude comments of nude beach pictures of the 2-year-old son of Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.

“I saw the picture and, quite frankly, I do think it's kiddie porn," Stern told Portnoy, who went on Stern’s Sirius satellite radio show because he thought he had an ally after getting whacked in print and on the airwaves in Boston.

But the question of tastelessness aside, there is a growing controversy about just whose and what rights were violated. First and foremost is the question of whether Portnoy and his site are protected under the First Amendment.

Portnoy, whose blog is rife with profanity, scantily clad women and locker room comments geared for the arrested development crowd, has been claiming to one and all his right as a journalist and his free speech rights to post the photos and his off-color comments that focused on the toddler’s genitalia. But he failed to say until yesterday that he took them down Friday night after a visit by state troopers investigating on behalf of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office. The news was first reported by the website Deadspin.

But the visit has prompted civil rights lawyers to question the propriety of pressuring a media outlet to quash a story.

“I think it’s a real stretch that this is a criminal matter,’’ Jonathan M. Albano, a Boston lawyer who specializes in media law, told the Globe. “And there’s an inherent element of coercion when civilians are faced with police in uniforms.”

Coakley says her office is “grateful” Portnoy pulled the plug and said the issue is settled as far as her office is concerned. But that doesn’t settle whether Portnoy is protected as a media outlet or even if what he posted was child pornography.

The issue also raises other questions regarding whether sports talk is journalism. In the wake of Portnoy’s vehement defense of his post, sports talk station WEEI banned him from its airwaves. That action is a bit ironic given that not too many years ago, the station’s hosts were righteously indignant when the Boston Globe banned its writers from appearing on the station’s shows because of the repeated offensiveness of some of the hosts.

It also bears noting that WEEI has a contractual – some would say conflict-ridden – relationship with the Patriots and members of the team appear on all the station’s shows during the week. Brady has a regularly scheduled, compensated appearance on the Dennis and Callahan Show every Monday morning during the season, so listeners tuned in to hear what the league’s reigning MVP had to say about the issue.

Turns out, Brady said nothing because he was never asked. The Herald’s Inside Track reveals today that Brady asked the hosts not to go there and so they didn’t. Which raises the question about the interview process and whether it is an infomercial for Brady or a legitimate Q&A. While co-host Gerry Callahan is a Herald columnist, no one should forget the morning show is entertainment, not journalism.

Perhaps the most fitting summary of the maelstrom came from Portnoy himself, who gave a little insight into why he wrote what he wrote and went on Stern to defend himself.

“Truthfully I just wanted the publicity,” he wrote. Now that’s the one truth we can all agree on.

                                                                                                                                                                              --JACK SULLIVAN 
        


BEACON HILL

Five southeastern Mass. lawmakers are urging their colleagues and leaders not to give the Wampanoag tribe any edge in getting a casino license.

Registrar Rachel Kaprielian told the Metrowest Daily News editorial board that the future of the Registry of Motor Vehicles is online and the only thing drivers need to go to a branch for is to have their picture taken once a decade.

Beacon Hill Republicans file a bill targeting habitual bad drivers, the Gloucester Times reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lenox officials are pondering spending $20,000 to $30,000 to install free Wi-Fi for the downtown area while opponents says it’s unnecessary with more people using wireless data plans on smartphones and tablets to surf the Web.

The former executive director of a Lawrence anti-poverty agency worked just 15 hours a week and earned $145,000 a year, tax forms indicate, according to a story in the Eagle-Tribune.

Ipswich is surveying residents on a plan to cut the municipality’s recreation department budget by two-thirds and work with schools and the local YMCA to provide recreation opportunities, the Salem News reports.

The group trying to recall Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua formally withdrew its signature petition and blamed the city clerk for failing to follow the city charter, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Fall River City Council gave initial approval to a sweeping waterfront zoning plan that allows at least one casino, up to 12-story buildings, and paves the way for shops, restaurants, condos, and marinas.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

President Obama is planning a new proposal for jobs creation and deficit reduction to be unveiled in a major speech in September, according to the Washington Post.

Jon Keller is all for taxing Warren Buffett and his friends all they want but he said changes in the tax structure for the mega-rich are a drop in the deficit bucket.

Sens. John Kerry, Patty Murray, and Max Baucus talk deficit-reduction in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.  

ELECTION 2012

President  Obama hits Iowa, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry not far behind. Perry says that it would be treasonous -- and an invitation for ugly treatment in Texas -- for Federal Reserve Chairman (and native son of Dillon, South Carolina) Ben Bernanke to practice monetary policy. The comment invites blowback from ideological twins Karl Rove and Larry Summers. Slate says the Perry campaign will try to dial down the hot rhetoric. Rove and Summers aside, such hot rhetoric isn’t raising the kind of eyebrows it once might have, and you can thank Ron Paul for that. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is still a thing.

Elizabeth Warren meets with supporters in Dorchester and schedules another get-together in Lexington. Dorchester activist Joyce Linehan, who hosted Warren at her home on Monday, wrote this account of the visit, reposted on CommonWealth’s site from her blog. Here is WBUR’s report on the get-togethers and the Globe story on the “listening tour” she has begun. The Herald reports that Warren has enrolled in the Doug Rubin school of politicking.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Sorry, wrong number: Striking Verizon workers say the company is using misleading figures in ads that the union says artificially inflate worker earnings.

WBUR’s On Point discusses radical fixes for the housing crisis.

Five tobacco companies sue the FDA over a new law that would force them to place graphic health warnings on their cigarette packets. The companies say the warning would make consumers “depressed, discouraged, and afraid,” but isn’t that the point?

EDUCATION

Agawam school officials, who already charge fees for busing and sports participation, are hiking the fee for students who bring cars to school to $160.

Hingham officials say it will be cheaper to build a new middle school rather than renovate the old one and relocate students while the repairs are underway.

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy, who as head of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was pressured to sell the hospital by state officials to reduce the oversaturation of teaching hospitals in the city, says the problem isn’t the number of academic facilities but the redundancy of programs. He says the hospitals should talk among themselves how better to share resources.

The Globe reports that patients are facing a rise in drug shortages, including crucial anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs, with doctors often in the dark about the reasons for the shortfall.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

NECN’s Jim Braude sums up the Arroyo case: “It’s basically Casey Anthony, welcome to Massachusetts.”  Jurors who spoke with Globe offer a more nuanced perspective, saying they knew Arroyo was up to no good, but didn’t think the government proved the particular charges of mail fraud.

A former Sherborn man who is the prime suspect in the disappearance and murder of Wayland 9-year-old Sarah Pryor and a Massachusetts teenage girl more than 25 years ago was denied parole in Texas where he is serving a life sentence in the murder of a 15-year-old girl in that state.

A former Salvadoran government official wanted in connection with the infamous slaying in El Salvador of six priests in 1989 has been living quietly for years in Everett, the Globe reports.

Harry Markopolos, the whistle-blower who had a bead for years on Bernard Madoff’s multibillion dollar scam but couldn’t get anyone to listen will have movie audience as a documentary, Chasing Madoff, opens next week.

MEDIA

Conservative bomb-tosser Jay Severin, fired for either a sexist rant or low ratings, depending upon whom you talk to, is returning to the Boston airwaves to helm the afternoon 3-6 slot at Talk 1200 (WXKS-AM) beginning tomorrow.

A 2007 letter surfaces from the disgraced royal correspondent at the News of the World that suggests phone hacking was widely discussed at editorial meetings, the Guardian reports. The Christian Science Monitor’s says the new discovery portends even more troubles for the Murdoch clan.

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