‘Boston Globe’ journalist Kevin Cullen suspended for three months

Report found initial coverage of the Boston bombings raised concerns of ‘fabrication’

Journalist Kevin Cullen has been suspended from the Boston Globe for three months. Photograph: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Journalist Kevin Cullen has been suspended from the Boston Globe for three months. Photograph: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

 

Prominent Irish-American journalist Kevin Cullen has been suspended from the Boston Globe for three months, following an investigation into his reporting of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.

A report commissioned by the Boston Globe found that his initial report on the bombings in April 2013 and subsequent radio interviews raised concerns of “fabrication”. In particular, the review found that, during media interviews, Mr Cullen described scenes “in which he was centrally involved but, to the best of our knowledge, didn’t occur”.

According to a report commissioned by the Boston Globe and compiled by retired Associated Press executive editor Kathleen Carroll and Thomas Fiedler, Dean of the College of Communications at Boston University, Mr Cullen’s writing style could cause a reader unfamiliar with the media coverage of the event to conclude that he was an eyewitness to the bombing and its aftermath, when it fact he wasn’t.

However, it adds, “we find no evidence to support the allegation that Mr Cullen intended to mislead readers with his choice of words”.

The report also examines a series of radio interviews given by Mr Cullen to several media outlets including the BBC and Newstalk Radio in the days and months following the Boston bombings.

Specifically, the report found that Mr Cullen relayed an anecdote describing how a firefighter, a friend of his called Sean, had described picking up a seven-year old girl and noticing that her lower leg was missing.

Mr Cullen told Newstalk Radio on April 16th, 2013, according to the report, that the firefighter had gone back to the scene “and he crawled on his hands and knees trying to find her leg”.

The firefighter, who was identified as Lieut Sean O’Brien, has denied that account.

Mr Cullen, an occasional contributor to The Irish Times, wrote an article for the paper in the aftermath of the 2013 marathon bombing. On foot of the findings of the Boston Globe review, The Irish Times on Monday deleted a sentence from that article.

In a statement, the Boston Globe said Mr Cullen had “damaged his credibility”. But it added that the review “also leads us to believe that Mr Cullen did not commit irrevocable damage”, noting his work on uncovering protection that Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger received from the FBI, and his contribution to the investigation by the paper’s “Spotlight” team into the Catholic Church child abuse scandal.

It is understood that Mr Cullen is taking the case to arbitration and is being supported by the Boston Newspaper Guild.

The newspaper said that Mr Cullen had been given a three-month suspension without pay, in addition to the two-month paid suspension that he has already served. On return to work, Mr Cullen will work as a general reporter for two months before returning to his role as a columnist.

“He will be barred from outside broadcast interviews for the first six months after his return, and subsequent appearances will be given heightened editorial scrutiny,” the statement said.

A spokesman for Newstalk said the radio station had “no comment” to make on the matter.