Gardner Museum Heist —Blog

The Boston Globe and the New Fabulism

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Part Two

The Boston Globe's Gardner heist, state-seeded, disinformation juggernaut really began in earnest about a year after John Henry purchased the newspaper, in October of 2013. The case had been thrust into the headlines seven months earlier, by U.S. Attorney Carmen Oriz, who held a fateful March 18, 2013 press conference, where the FBI announced they knew who the thieves were, but also said they had no intention of making public their identities public. This was about seven months before Henry bought the Globe, and at that point Boston's then "paper of record," served as deferential note takers, to the FBI's claims and explanations about their Gardner heist investigation, which regularly strained credulity.

The actual, formally stated purpose of that press conference was to announce a publicity campaign, to focus the public's attention on the Gardner heist case. It was a crowd sourcing effort along the lines of the one that had had led to the capture of fugitive Boston gangster, James "Whitey" Bulger. The centerpiece was of the crowd sourcing effort were some billboards of the stolen art, which went up in Philadelphia, where some of the art was said to have been seen a decade earlier.

The FBI showed little enthusiasm for the effort, either in word or deed. Saying they knew who the thieves were was the opposite of a conversation starter with members of the public who knew. They were making it clear that were not soliciting information about the perpetrators. They just wanted information that would help recover the art. The possibility that those who know who the thieves are, also might perhaps unknowingly possess a lead to where the art was or who had it was not a consideration.

But as Gardner Museum security consultant Steve Keller, "a former big city detective" said in 2009 about his experience, when he was interviewed by the FBI in the weeks after the robbery:

"I feel that if the FBI interviewed everyone as poorly as they interviewed me, it's no wonder this remains unsolved…I felt that they were not interested in what I might be able to tell them because they knew it all already. So it was business as usual with the FBI in this 2013 investigation as it had been from the very beginning, more interested in containing information than expanding the amount of it.

The previous year in 2012, Stephen Kurkjian reported that "Federal officials investigating the 1990 Gardner Museum heist, plan to launch a public awareness campaign similar to the one that led to last year’s arrest of James “Whitey’’ Bulger, in the latest sign that officials have sharpened their probe into the notorious theft, according to the US attorney’s office." The article did not include any quote by the FBI, who were surely contacted for the lengthy story. There was no report of a their "no comment," in the story, but even the Gardner Museum, itself had nothing to say about this free outlay of federal time and tax dollars, to help recover, what their security director, Anthony Amore, calls, "our four Rembrandts," and "our art," on behalf of their nonprofit institution.

Instead the article softened the Museum's no comment to this unsolicited government largesse on their behalf: "Museum officials would not comment for this article. But Amore sounded optimistic recently (almost six weeks earlier) at a lecture at the Plymouth Public Library, when he said he believed the works will be found," Kurkjian reported.

So there was deference, during this time of Gardner heist news coverage, things were left out, that could have been included for a clearer understanding, but the parts of the story about the upcoming crowd sourcing campaign were accurate.

It has been nine years since the 2013 press conference and the FBI's excuse for withholding the names of the thieves as a method no longer holds water if it ever did.

"We're not in a position to identify those responsible, because it would hinder our ongoing investigation and it would hinder our ability to vet new information and to analyze new information as it is coming in." FBI Boston SAIC Richard DesLauriers told WGBH's Emily Rooney a couple of days after the historic press conference on March 19, 2013.

Less than a month later there was the Marathon Bombing, for which the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting, and two months after that DesLauriers announced his retirement from the FBI, and that was pretty the end of the crowd sourcing effort to get the Gardner art recovered, while keeping the names of the perpetrators secret, which seemed to be the higher priority.

Two years later, his replacement as Boston SAIC, Vincent Lisi, also retired from the FBI, just as a second wave of the Gardner heist publicity campaign was launched by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, this one clearly targeting the identity of thieves, with the release of the Gardner heist eve video, again spearheaded by the FBI, who slow walked and no-walked the effort.

"I heard they were battling," Kurkjian emailed me in January of 2016, "- Fisher, the new prosecutor in the case, was frustrated by how little spadework had been done by the FBI. There's a major disconnect between what the US Attorney's office wants to get done and the approach the feds take in an investigation"

In any case, the floodgates were now opened by the 2013 press conference and as the 25th anniversary approached two years later, the little trickle of truth that was still leaking out to the media if not in the media, about who the actual thieves are, was diluted with a flood-the-zone-with-shit tide of disinformation, A flood of shit that cascades persistently, with the Boston Globe at the mouth of it, along with with its strategic partners, like WBUR, and its "new media" side projects serving as tributaries.

The press did not really need information about the Gardner heist, it turned out, they just needed a story, and they got one, a bunch of them in fact. Stories that were not only not true, but obscured the truth.

There were a few news reports leading up to the 25th anniversary but the one that might be thought of as the official launch of the Globe's state-seeded, Gardner heist disinformation operation ran in the March 17, 2015 edition of the paper, the day before of the Gardner heist anniversary.

Called "Search for artworks from Gardner heist continues 25 years later," by Shelley Murphy, the first sentence reported: "The FBI is so confident it knows who stole $500 million worth of masterpieces from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, it has repeatedly touted its theory in recent months with PowerPoint presentations at libraries, colleges, and museums." In had not done anything of the kind. It had not "repeatedly touted its theory in recent months with PowerPoint presentations at libraries, colleges, and museums," in even one library, college, or museum, or any public venue. The claim created a false narrative of a vetting of the FBI's theory of the crime, by the public, which had never occurred. It was fabulism.

Two weeks later Howie Carr in a masterful work of disinformation in its own right, for Breitbart, on March 29, 2015, wrote that "the Boston FBI office produced a power-point presentation for the media hinting broadly that they [George Reissfelder and Lenny DiMuzio] robbed the museum."

So not the public, only the media, and actually in this case, only a tiny number of handpicked members of the media.

One was Tom Mashberg, co-author of a book called Stealing Rembrandts, with Gardner Museum, and unofficial FBI Gardner heist point man, Anthony Amore. Mashberg kicked off the 25th anniversary media deluge with an article in the New York Times in late February of 2015, which discussed the FBI's PowerPoint. Does Mashberg's relationship with Amore create any kind of conflict with the New York Times, as the FBI laid out the latest version of their sketchy Gardner heist story to him for public consumption? I guess not.

Mashberg's credibility (with the FBI goes) back to when he was the media intermediary between William Youngworth III, who offered to return the stolen Gardner Museum art for the reward, and the FBI, as well as the public. We learned three years later, not from Tom Mashberg, that it was the FBI who walked away from the bargaining table, the FBI who wouldn't make a deal: "Many officials at the Gardner museum, and also some officers at the FBI, did favour some form of compromise, but those higher up in the legal establishment had no desire to send such a message to the criminal fraternity at large. The attorney general's office in Washington warned against pandering to 'cultural terrorism,'" the Guardian reported.

Youngworth said in the 2005 Gardner Heist documentary "Stolen," that "The FBI takes this public posture that listen we just want the stuff back and we don't really care how it comes back. That's not true. I mean I have sat there behind closed doors and they only have one agenda the only thing they want is names."

Youngworth felt double-crossed by the FBI and Tom Mashberg and never spoke with Mashberg again he told me in 2020.

In sharp contrast, fifteen years later, the FBI was not only speaking with Mashberg they were handing him a scoop. "Anticipating a wave of interest, and possible criticism, on the eve of the robbery’s 25th anniversary, the investigators, Mr. Amore and Mr. Kelly (F.B.I. special agent now overseeing the case, Geoff Kelly, recently showed me a PowerPoint presentation that detailed their best sense of what happened.)

Amore was also a business associate of Howie Carr at that time. Carr may have had the opportunity to see the PowerPoint as well. Amore wrote political columns for Howie Carr's website and made several public appearances as one of the acts in Howie Carr's "true crime" travelling stage show, "An Evening of Crime with Howie Carr," At these $20. per ticket events, Amore would discuss his book Stealing Rembrandts and the Gardner heist case.

Only a week earlier, a few days after the anniversary, in 2015, Amore appeared with Carr at one of these events, on March 21, 2015, in Marlborough, MA.

Amore had made no public lectures in "recent months" prior to the publication of Shelley Murphy's March 17th story, about art crime, the Gardner heist, and his Stealing Rembrandts book.

The last time Amore had spoken to the public at a public appearance prior to the March 17, 2015 Shelley Murphy article, and the 25th anniversary, had been over four months earlier, on November 14, 2014, and there had been no mention of either George Reissfelder or Leonard DiMuzio at that event, at the Belmont, MA Historical Society.

Amore did have something quite interesting to say that day, however, which no member of the Boston Globe or any other reporter has ever asked him to clarify. In response to a question Amore stated: "I can't talk about specifics about the thieves and what I know from them. All I can say about them is that they cannot lead us to the paintings today. I can't get too in depth on that." And then: "I'm sorry the question was why can't the thieves lead us to the paintings. If I get into the weeds on that topic. I might be saying more than I should." Time: 1:16:57

Quite a contrast from what Amore said a year earlier, at a different public lecture about art crime and the Gardner heist at the Weston public library: "I would venture I guess, now this is a guess I haven't spoken to the thieves so I don't know this for sure, but I am confident when I say that when the thieves went into the Gardner their assignment was [to steal] Rembrandt's." Time: 1:10:00

It is hard to imagine a time before or since where Amore would speak so casually about speaking with the thieves, as if it was something in the realm of possibility, and suggesting he at least had communication from the thieves a year later.

Amore certainly did not sound as though they were dead in that 2013 public talk. And then a year later to suggest he has spoken with or at least has information from the thieves, information that persuades him that they cannot help with finding the art, is a radical departure from anything said before or since, by a Gardner heist investigation insider. Amore blew all past and future official narratives up to this day to smithereens, at that historical society event.

Amore's slip about having information "from them, the Gardner heist thieves may have been an additional impetus for the FBI's claim, four months later, on the 25th anniversary of the heist that the thieves "are currently dead."

This blockbuster news story was picked up by exactly no one for almost five months until the FBI's Peter Kowenhoven reiterated his claim, when the Gardner heist eve video was released in August.

One especially compact all-in-one example of the Boston Globe's Gardner heist fabulism was an article written by, you guessed it, Stephen Kurkjian and Shelley Murphy back in 2017 called "Evidence in Gardner Museum thefts that might bear DNA is missing." which revealed that, "the FBI, which collected the crime scene evidence, lost the duct tape and handcuffs, the thieves had used to restrain the museum's two security guards." Or striking a less accurate, more mitigating tone in the introductory third sentence of the article, it "disappeared."

Less than half of the article relates to the lost evidence. Mostly it is a disinforming historical review, conjuring up an FBI Gardner heist investigation history, that never was, in which losing evidence represents an exception or anomaly, when in fact this loss of evidence fits a consistent of pattern error, inaction, and ignoring of opportunities by the FBI.

This news report is a fabulistic outpouring of FBI made up actions and progress in an investigation going nowhere by design; a baker's dozen of egregious errors, and of kissing up to the powerful, while punching down at the vulnerable, as it attempts to mitigate what would be a very bad, but accurate impression, the article might otherwise give readers about the case, if the story and its historical context were presented with professionalism, or an honest attempt at accuracy

The next post will examine this one specific article lie by lie, for an in a nutshell view of this six year state-seeded disinformation operation. Subsequent posts in this series will look at how this preposterous, patently false narrative has been elaborated, bolstered, maintained, amplified and revised over the years in every facet of the media landscape.

Part Three

by Kerry Joyce

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