12:43 pm Mar. 11, 2011
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
The New York Post: Since I'm a little late to this, I won't spend a ton of time going over the finer details of yesterday's indictment of Brooklyn state senator Carl Kruger on charges of taking bribes and money laundering. But I would like to spend a lot of time on the way the Post spins the story today, starting with the front page but dipping into the article.
"BRIBE & GROOM" reads the main hed in a box at the bottom of the page. "Pol, secret gay lover arrested."
The "secret gay lover" they mean is Michael Turano, who lived with his brother, Gerard, and his mother Dorothy, at a house in Mill Basin the complaint pretty much says Kruger lived at full-time, too. Only Michael is under arrest, and it was he, according to the allegations, who set up accounts that would be used to receive bribes and kickbacks.
To give you a sense of how different this sale is from everyone else's, consider the headline on The New York Times' front page today: "Graft Charges Depict Senator's Lavish Lifestyle." Somewhat teasingly for anyone who's seen the post, Michael Barbaro and Nick Confessore write that the complaint "unlocked many of the mysteries of [Kruger's] life—but deepened others." Read this from the jump of the Times story:
He has also faced unusually intense criticism from gay rights activists for his 2009 vote against a Senate bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Activists traveled last year to the Turano residence and the Brooklyn home of Mr. Kruger’s sister, protesting loudly and saying Mr. Kruger himself was gay. Mr. Kruger has said he is not gay.
Two activists also crashed an evening fund-raiser Mr. Kruger held last March at an Albany hotel, presenting themselves as guests of one of the co-hosts, Mr. Sampson. As a dozen or so lobbyists and donors—ticket prices topped out at $9,500, the maximum legal donation to a senator’s campaign—snacked on chicken and pasta, the activists berated Mr. Kruger.
Neighbors interviewed on Thursday said they were offended by the visits from the gay rights protesters, with their placards and chants.
Here's how the Post leads the story:
Closeted Brooklyn state Sen. Carl Kruger, a Democratic powerhouse, traded political favors for more than $1 million in bribes over the last five years—which his live-in boyfriend helped launder, the feds charged yesterday.
So, strike one. Here is what the complaint says about Kruger's relationship with Michael Turano:
Of all the TURANOs, CARL KRUGER, the defendant, is closest with MICHAEL TURANO. For example, during the course of the interceptions of the KRUGER phone, KRUGER was in nearly daily contact with MICHAEL TURANO; KRUGER spoke with MICHAEL TURANO in a manner that revealed they relied on and supported one another; KRUGER sometimes picked MICHAEL TURANO up from work; and individuals called the KRUGER phone to reach MICHAEL TURANO, including an individual who wanted to talk to "Dr. Turano" about the insurance for a Bentley automobile and an individual from the emergency room at one of the hospitals where TURANO worked.
There's also this: "KRUGER had an intimate relationship with the TURANO family."
What else has the Post got? "A source close to the investigation told The Post that Kruger—who voted against a state gay-marriage bill last year—was particularly 'intimate' with Michael Turano."
Almost there—but not quite! And this is the nail in the coffin, isn't it? This piece has a triple byline, plus a "shirttail" naming five additional reporters; and here we've got them trying to get someone on the inside of the investigation to say they discovered the two were lovers during the course of the investigation. They don't get it, in fact—not even from an anonymous source.
And then these mandatory bits: "Asked yesterday if Kruger and Turano were lovers, Turano's lawyer declined to comment," the Post writes. And: "Kruger's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said only, 'I don't think that this is an appropriate area of inquiry, and I choose not to comment.'"
Of course Brafman's wrong. The investigators would have worked hard to establish the closest possible relationship between Turano and Kruger. Could it be that Kruger, who prosecutors have said was extremely careful not to speak directly about the alleged scheme, was even more careful not to say anything even on a private phone line that could implicate him in a love affair with a man?
They'd have tried, too—and it is, at least in part, relevant. It was to accounts held by Turano that the money was directed, and in those accounts the money stayed, except to be spent on Bentleys and the like. (There's even a $15,000 light fixture Turano wanted to buy, according to the complaint, but Kruger put the kibosh on it.) Ironically, the state senator who opposed gay marriage is in a position where prosecutors must show that Turano materially benefitting from help Kruger gave to various hospital and healthcare organizations amounts to Kruger benefitting from them directly. And so, the "intimacy" part of the case is crucial.
If light-bulbs and travel snacks—the sorts of things the complaint identifies as purchases of Kruger's to benefit the Turano family—are not your idea of love-gifts, then consider that prosecutors only need to show that simply by being close to the Turanos, Kruger benefited from and could even direct the spending of money that came into the household.
So, to make a long story short: The Post hasn't got the goods—and in fact, the Times, which didn't have them either, did more to make us understand what the relevance of it all might be better than the Post.
Of course that's not all the Post is fronting today. A Manhattan jeweler gave Lindsay Lohan a necklace with an evil eye on it! And she wore it to court along with a skin-tight, flesh-colored leather dress. And Little Red Riding Hood is not a good movie.
Daily News: The News is having none of this Kruger story on its front page, puzzlingly. (Though there's lots inside, none of it uses the G-word.) It seems that 16-year-old Zhanna Smsarian of Fort Hamilton High School got mad at her onetime friend, Eshimbaeva Albina, and threw acid in her schoolmate's face. Albina was wearing goggles, and the acid was a 10 percent solution, so everyone seems fine now. Some people at the school disagree about whether a boy only identified as Mohammed had complained to Smsarian that Albina had gotten "too clingy." "Long-running teen girl feud ends in vicious classroom … ACID ATTACK" reads the main hed. There's a nice picture of Smsarian looking pouty and sad with a napkin in her right hand, and an inset portrait photo of her victim in ROTC duds.
Except for an ad for the paper's fantasy baseball guide, that's all there is to see here, folks.
Observations: Here's the problem with the Post's cover today: You have to read the article (and read it carefully, by most standards) to realize you've been sold a bill of goods. And by then, you've already bought your paper. My first reaction on looking at the Post was probably what many people's was or will be: Why is it relevant whether they're lovers? In fact, it is relevant, and the Post drops the ball on it. I wonder whether part of the calculation here is that the Post believes their assertion will be vindicated. It doesn't make this any better—but tabloids have done it before. And when this goes to trial, I think we can expect, if there's truth in the assertion the two are lovers, it will come up in the testimony. There are lots of names on this list, and a lot of them haven't done enough to put them beyond hope of a deal.
On the other hand, "ACID ATTACK" is a pretty gripping-looking, vicious, unbelievable hometown tale, too, isn't it? Until, again, you find out what happened. I think the News could have beaten the Post today if they had anything at all about the Kruger case, however bland-looking. But today, as often is the case, the bad guys win, I'm afraid.
Winner: The New York Post.