Lowell Sun smears war hero

Every so often I’m reminded of why I despise the leadership of the Lowell Sun. Today the paper dipped deep into its bucket of ideological sleaze to smear a young combat veteran who had the audacity to support Niki Tsongas. During his six years as an infantry officer in the United States Army, Joe Goodwin served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor in combat. No longer on active duty, Joe has taken advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill to further his education, a benefit available to every veteran who has served since that fateful day. Joe recently appeared in a Tsongas campaign ad in which he thanks Niki for her advocacy of this new GI bill.

But Tsongas is not the Lowell Sun’s candidate, and as is so often the case, the newspaper’s ideological slant infects its news coverage (or the little original news coverage produced by the handful of remaining reporters). So today the Lowell Sun outed Joe Goodwin. His crime? He’s the son of author Doris Kearns Goodwin and former presidential speech writer Richard Goodwin. In the Sun’s twisted world, Joe’s parentage makes him undeserving of the benefits of the GI Bill.

The decision makers at the Sun sought to keep the blood off their own hands by dredging up a couple of third-tier candidates, both unknown and unfunded and willing to say anything about anyone just to get their names in the paper, to go on record criticizing Joe. But it was the leadership of the paper that created a story out of nothing and stuck it above the fold on the front page.

I’m supporting Niki Tsongas and I’ve participated in a number of meetings and events as a “veteran for Tsongas.” In that context, I’ve been with Joe Goodwin at least a dozen times. He’s friendly and intelligent and has the type of quiet leadership skills that would be invaluable in combat. And throughout that entire time, I had no idea of the identity of Joe’s parents. I only knew Joe as a patriotic young American who volunteered to serve his country in time of war, who chose the branch – infantry – most likely to put him in grave physical danger, and who performed heroically as a leader during two combat tours. For someone like that to be smeared by the ideological zealots who run the local newspaper is utterly contemptible.

29 Responses to Lowell Sun smears war hero

  1. Greg Page says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the inappropriateness of the smear….I hadn’t heard about this until Jack mentioned it to me today…I feel more upset towards Brown and Clark than I do towards the paper, though…I just can’t believe they would have the nerve to say that (and I didn’t even know that Goodwin had been an Infantry Officer or that he had a BSV until I read your post just now).

    None of those people speaking has a CLUE as to Goodwin’s personal financial situation. But regardless of that, as you said, he earned the right to the benefit by signing on the dotted line and serving on active duty. If the same people who complain that our military isn’t represented by all segments and classes of society then want to turn around and means-test the benefits that veterans receive, well, there isn’t enough sand in Iraq for me to tell them to go pound.

  2. Deb Forgione says:

    Thank you for this post, I can see why blogs have become so popular. After reading that story I know I was not the only one who felt sickened by that article.He was lucky enough not lose his life serving his country but unfortunately had to read a community newspaper attempting to ruin his reputation. The good news is as an Attorney I hope he remembers this newspaper and exposes their practices.I do not think a year goes by that the Lowell Sun loses readership and after that article I am sure they have lost more.

  3. Kosta says:

    I’ve been so turned off by the Sun’s editorial slant that I have not renewed my subscription. Although one should read positions that do not fit with one’s own, and I do, the quality of Lowell Sun’s editorials and frequent stories leave much to be desired – I frankly can’t read them, much as I have tried. Of course, this is an over-reaction and I will likely subscribe again in the near future. It would be a great loss for us not to have a local paper – it would be a great gain to have one of quality – one that “all” can be proud of. Yes, the web is great – and it being an alternative to print. Does the print media not know, or care, that it is in danger of “it’ not being an alternative any more?

  4. JoeS says:

    Ideology trumps common sense – the same editor who would deprive a veteran of his GI benefits has no problem with providing tax breaks to the very rich of this country, many of whom are making their money on the sacrifices of men like Joe Goodwin.

  5. Eleanor Rigby says:

    I just posted this on Left in Lowell but since it references Dick I will post it here as well.
    To tell you the truth the TV ad for Tsongas that the Sun trashes did need to be brought to the public’s attention.

    It should have been reserved for a “Political notebook” column and not the front page, but the ad does mislead voters in the sense that the ad implies if not outright states that Goodwin would not have been able to afford law school without the new GI Bill. That is not true by his own admission.

    I did not see it as an attack on Goodwin’s or anyone else’s patriotism. I saw it as a TV ad that misrepresented the soldier’s story to benefit Tsongas. She certainly could have found another soldier whose story was completely true and above reproach.

    I think was is more glaring and what the Sun’s story did not report is that the co-owner of the only other media outlet in Lowell is also featured in the ad identified only as an “army reserveist”.

    The Sun should have raised the question how can voters believe that WCAP will remain neutral and report unbiased stories on the 5th District Congressional race when one of the owners of the station appears in a Tsongas ad and is not idetified as co-owner of the local radio station?

    I have to disagree with you and Dick on this one. It is a story that needed to have been told but was only half of the story was told with the more critical information being left out.

    I think putting it on the front page was overkill and shows the Sun’s bias against Tsongas.

  6. Prince Charming says:

    In our country’s history, poor men and women have died fighting rich men’s wars. Now we have a decorated “rich kid” who put his life on the line for us and he’s smeared by a right wing editor. Thank you for your service, kid. Sometimes ya just can’t win.

  7. Mr. Lynne says:

    “ad implies if not outright states that Goodwin would not have been able to afford law school without the new GI Bill”

    What the ad says… literally: “…I can feel free to go to law school without being burdened by debt.”

    Nothing about that is untrue. Certainly, if his parents are of the type that would be unconcerned to pay his way for him, the in addition to the GI bill he may have additional reasons that he “…can feel free to go to law school without being burdened by debt.”, but that doesn’t diminish in any way what the good is that the bill did,… because (and this is probably the most important part)… the benefit might go to anyone who sacrificed for their country. The point is about the benefit, not the guy.

    Now as for spin and implication…. lets look at some direct quotes from the article.

    “… referring to the potential to be thousands of dollars in debt after graduating.”

    Really? Thousands. Gee, that makes it sound like he’s just buying a car. Try six figures and that’s doesn’t include any other costs while trying to go to school like rent and food. 200K in total is probably not an unreasonable figure here. Thousands,… indeed.

    “Jon Golnik, the Republican in the race, said Goodwin deserves to receive the benefits he is entitled to for his service, and said Tsongas alone should answer for the people she places in her ads.”

    So he deserves it, but pointing it out in an ad is objectionable? So what is it… ok or objectionable?

    It seems to me that the position that he deserves it even if his parents are rich and that the benefit is good regardless of who this guy is is incompatible with the assertion that it is somehow objectionable to actually point any of it out.

    The conclusion for me is that this paper leaps to jump on the negative when it comes to the story disregarding what even her opponents concede are reasonable points. Smells to me.

  8. DickH says:

    One of the reasons the article was so sleazy was that it imposed a means test on veterans benefits, a test that doesn’t exist now and has never existed in our country. We, as a people, have long recognized the sacrifice made by those who serve in uniform and, as part of the debt we owe them for their service, have extended governmental benefits to them after their service is complete. It’s been that way since the Revolutionary War. Whether veterans need the benefits or not is irrelevant – we owe it to them. It’s part of the deal. End of discussion. That the chain of comments here – all rational and respectful of each other by the way – have nonetheless veered into a debate about whether an individual veteran “needs” the benefits or not is the strongest evidence of the sleaziness of such smear tactics. It’s a classic example of the “do you still beat your wife?” type of question. There’s no basis to even ask the question, but the mere asking of it accomplishes the damaging objective of the low life who asks it.

  9. Michael Luciano says:

    Also, shame on Lyle Moran for writing this hit piece. He shouldn’t get a free pass.

  10. Eleanor Rigby says:

    And no one has an issue with Sam P in the ad?

    I am not implying that Mr. Goodwin was not entitled to the benefits he received, I am saying that that ad implies that without those benefits he would have been burdened with debt that was not something he could handle. The article in the Sun quoted him as saying he could afford it on his own (paraphraed)

    Tsongas shoud have used someone else in the ad. The Sun should have pointed out that Sam P was the co-owner of WCAP and questioned how his radio station can present an unbiased coverage of the campaign.

    Conclusion; Using the co-owner of one of the two media outlets in the largest city in the ad, and using a wealthy veteran implying poverty were bad decisions on the part of the Tsongas campaign.

    The Sun only reporting half of that story and putting it on the front page instead of a political column was an obvious attempt to sway opinion.

    Again I disagree, the article does not put a means test on veterans benefits. Whoever used these particular particpants in the TV ad was clueless to the needs of veterans and put Tsongas’ credibility and that of WCAP at serious risk.

  11. Eleanor Rigby says:

    One more note.

    Sam Poulton (sp) co-owner of WCAP obviously agreed to be in the Tsongas ad and yet no one has challenged his radio station’s objectivity and no one is criticizing him or WCAP! DUH!

  12. Publius says:


    Shouldn’t you have linked to the Sun article, so people could see if firsthand wihtout having to search for it?

  13. Ryan says:

    Eleanor Rigby,

    You are in no position to determine whether the guy in the ad did or did not have sufficient means to avoid being in debt from going to law school. Your post is insulting. That is all.

  14. DickH says:

    I’ve addressed the “linking to the Sun” issue before. The newspaper quickly shuttles its articles into a pay-for-access archive making it pointless to make a link. It goes dead in just a few days. Anytime I reference an article on another website, I always link to it.

  15. Greg Page says:

    Eleanor Rigby — it may seem like I’m just piling on, as I can see most of the people who’ve chimed in here fall pretty squarely on one side of this, but I have to tell you how much this statement bothers me: “clueless to the needs of veterans.”

    What exactly is that supposed to mean?

    Even veterans who come home from war without physical scars have issues that they’ll spend the rest of their lives dealing with… and a platoon leader who led men in combat (like Goodwin) is a prime example. There are all kinds of health issues that veterans face due to their exposure to hazardous substances overseas. There are ways that news stories bring back traumatic events that have been otherwise *dormant* in the mind for years.

    None of those issues have anything to do with someone’s original ZIP code. In fact, despite some media stereotypes, the average enlistee is likely to be better-educated than the mean in his peer group, and likely to come from a household with an above-average income. I spend nearly every weekday and what seems like every weekend with my Guard unit, where the range of educational and professional background is as wide as any other slice of the Commonwealth.

    A family I know in Maryland is in mourning because of what they lost in the helicopter crash that Dick blogged about a couple Sundays ago. Though upper-middle class by anyone’s definition, their tragedy is just as real as that of the two families in Fall River who have lost sons in Afghanistan this year.

    Also, while the article may not have made an outright call for means-testing, the stink that it raises makes the implication that something is amiss in Goodwin’s use of the benefit. And the obnoxious quote by Bob Clark of Berlin leaves no doubt as to his feelings about whether Goodwin ought to have received it. I don’t presume to know Bob Clark — other than a glance at the bio on his website, I don’t — but he has tremendous nerve to make sneering judgements about a combat veteran whose personal finances are none of his business.

  16. Patrick Martin says:

    Great article Dick, was thinking the same thing as i read it.. Joe Goodwin is an adult, it matters zero how much money his parents have or dont have.. he is entitled to the benefits and he certainly earned them.. plus he could have gone to school straight out of high school, and be a practicing lawyer by now.. but he chose the infantry.. that was his choice as an adult.. a few comments made great points: 1) these guys may have recurring medical/health problems their whole lives because of what they saw/did, 2) dont we want people from all walks of life in the military?

  17. John A Nappi Sr says:

    My dear friend Campanini,
    John Nappi here.

    Campi what the hell is going on? Why are so many bloggers upset at my friend? What, really did they expect for a guy with no talent? Did they expect Shakespeare? Did they expect ‘fair and balance? They got ‘fair and balanced’. Ok, maybe a little like Billy Oh, but nevertheless, fair and somewhat balanced. Ok, so you attacked a military guy. Big deal! But didn’t you and the Republicans say you support the military? Didn’t you and ‘whats-his-name’ have a bumper sticker that says “I support our troops”. Oh, I see now, this guy is not quite like you. He’s different. He probably voted Democrat. I know that kind. Democrat today; Socialist tomorrow.

    Dick Howe jr, what’s the matter with you? What are your grandchildren going to say when they give cemetery tours and they come across Campi’s headstone? “Lowell once had a newspaper and here lies the last editor. Someone by the name of . . . can’t quite read the name. But I remember at the time Lowell thought he was fair and somewhat balanced.”

    Oh, and Lynne. Do you think it’s fair to take all the fun out of life by taking the Sun away from us? Huh? What then? Where are we going to see all those pictures of the cute cats? Huh? Oh, so you think we’re going to get the NYT. You know they don’t publish pictures like that.

    Campi, on your behalf, I will personally talk to these people. You have to realize, Democrats are ‘hard-wired’ to not trust bankers, newspaper editors and anyone selling magazines door-to-door. I still remember the stories my grandfather told me; “if you’re are going to ride the street car, make sure you get on the right one.” I don’t know what that means. I think it’s something about – don’t be taking for a ride. Especially if you’re paying for it.

    John Nappi

    PS. Oh, about that ‘inflatable dam’ thing: “Tutte Bene’.

  18. Eleanor Rigby says:

    Greg Page….My statement was very clear if you want to read it again. What I wrote was:

    “Whoever used these particular particpants in the TV ad was clueless to the needs of veterans and put Tsongas’ credibility and that of WCAP at serious risk”.

    That critcizes the person who selected Mr Goodwin and Mr Poulton to be part of the TV ad. It is in no way critical of Mr Goodwin, Poulton or their service to the country.

    I am bring critical of the decision to make the ad using two specific individuals as being representative of members of the military in the district when they are not. If this ad had appeared on behalf of a conservative the same people shouting outrage for questioning it would have been leading the charge!

    The Sun was correct in pointing this out, but wrong in the decision that it was a front page story.

    And still no one has an issue with the owner of one of the two media outlets in the city appearing in a political campaign ad!

  19. Mr. Lynne says:

    Eleanor,… your point of specificity with regard to where you are directing criticism is well taken, but it begs further questions. If you want to direct your criticism at the person who selected Goodwin, it must be surmised that you want to direct criticism at them because they selected Goodman. That leaves the question of why such a selection is worthy of criticism and what is it about Goodman in particular that makes selecting him worthy of criticism.

    If you want to assert that selecting him was worthy of criticism it must follow that there must be something about him in particular that makes his selection worthy of criticism. So the specific point at which your criticism is directed has implications about Goodwin. That I think is the rub here because we keep hearing that Goodwin himself isn’t the problem here. If he isn’t, then why is the choice of using him a problem?

  20. Jack Mitchell says:

    So very not true:
    If this ad had appeared on behalf of a conservative the same people shouting outrage for questioning it would have been leading the charge!

    Also, not true:
    ..using two specific individuals as being representative of members of the military in the district when they are not.

    I’m not sure what your “image” of a veteran is, but I can tell you that Joe and Sam fit the bill. When you go to basic training, whatever you “were” is no longer important. That fact only becomes more true in combat. Veterans carry this mindset with them, likely to the grave. We are bound to each other, men and women who have served under arms.

    Like Dick H., I am also a member of Veterans of Tsongas, as is Sam P. Our proximity; but more important our almost immediate availability, puts us on the front line for such things.

    The Sun calling this out is faux news made to trump up negativity. Dick feels the motive is political. Others think profit drives it. I defer to Dick. He is wiser than me on such things.

    At its heart, the use of certain individuals to shoot a TV ad, is a boring matter of process and has NOTHING to do with issues. If our political conversation degrades into rants about film making, we are in trouble.

    Of course, the Independent candidate injected his two cents, spurring a discussion on “means testing”, ect. I ignore such things as his opinions are extreme, coming from the fringe. Of real concern, is Leader Boehner’s plan to cut VA spending back to 2008 levels. That will hurt veterans and their families. That is a real issue.

    I support full funding with advanced appropriations for the VA. That is why I proudly serve, with my fellow veterans, in Veterans for Tsongas.

    Ne Desit Virtus

  21. Gerry Nutter says:


    The fact he has been in the military a lot longer then he has owned the station aside, just because he owns the station, does that prohibit him as an individual from exercising his freedom to support who he wishes?

    Is their something I missed in the United States Constitution or MA. Law that states a media owner gives up all of his personal choices to endorse people he believes in?

    Why can’t his views be allowed because he owns a station? I don’t understand why it upsets you.

    Why not just admit you don’t like his candidate or you don’t like him so you believe he should not be able to exercise his personal freedom of choice

  22. Renee Aste says:

    Eleanor, It has always been know Sam Poulten is an active member of the Democratic Party for some time. Sam was even on of the eltorate voters for Massachusetts in the 2008 Presidential campaign. It was no secret when he bought WCAP.


    It’s natural to select your most loyal supporters in a political commercial. Reread Dick’s last paragraph, he had no idea who Joe Goodwin’s parents are. Personally when you do have a family member that is a publicly known, sometimes you get tired hearing personal stories from individuals. Just this week our new life insurance agent spent a good 15 minutes talking about my father-in-law, but being he was a college professor at UML the stories can be pretty funny.

  23. Eleanor Rigby says:

    Bottom line

    The TV ad was intended to portray a soldier who was helped by the GI Bill. In my opinion it was an error for the Tsongas campaign to select a soldier who had the means to attend law school and have him imply that without the GI Bill he may not have been able to attend. That was the intent of the ad.

    Having the co-owner of WCAP, one of only two media outlets in the city, appear in a political ad is comparable to Fox News giving money to the Republican Governor’s Association because they represent Fox’s poltiical views and agenda. No difference,

    If you are having trouble seeing this then that is not my issue.

  24. Greg Page says:

    ER, I am happy to keep this back-and-forth going…and I admit that the subject matter hits very close to home, so I’m far from impartial. It might be worth adding that for five months I held a leadership position in the Sam Meas campaign — someone aiming to run against Niki Tsongas. For me, this isn’t about partisanship or Ms. Tsongas, but it’s about people’s perceptions of who serves in today’s all-volunteer force.

    I know Jack already touched on this, and offered his own perspective, but I have to tell you that as a military “lifer” this quote deeply bothers me: “I am bring critical of the decision to make the ad using two specific individuals as being representative of members of the military in the district when they are not.”

    Minus a brief hiccup last fall and winter, I have spent my entire professional life either in the active duty military or in an active (full-time) status with the Massachusetts Army National Guard. Pending the results of something I’ll be doing next week, I plan to spend nearly all of next year deployed in Afghanistan, directly responsible for the lives and well-being of nine human beings, some of whom happen to reside here in this district.

    My experiences with them to date are what make the quote above so puzzling: What exactly is a ‘representative member of the military?’ Is it someone who speaks with a working-class accent? Someone who joined because she lacked other options? Someone who needed a leg up or ticket out of a hardscrabble existence?

    Some of the people I know may meet those descriptions, while many others do not. Many of the people I work with on a day-to-day basis are just as articulate, intelligent, and well-read as Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Poulten. I collaborate weekly with a CENTCOM Reserve unit based at Devens (right here in the 5th). Their collective brainpower and analytical capability could easily rival Bain, McKinsey, or the Boston Consulting Group.

    But I wouldn’t necessarily call them ‘representative’ of the military any more or less than I would a young enlistee from Lawrence, a software designer from Attleboro, a doctor from West Roxbury, or even a Captain in Lowell who loves blogs and op-ed pages.

    Or, for that matter, an aspiring lawyer from Concord or a Democratic activist from Chelmsford.

    But then again, when did the ad ever say or even imply that the Captain and Lieutenant Colonel featured were supposed to be representative? It never did, but my point is that the idea of choosing ANY two members of the force and calling them *representative* is preposterous to begin with. There is nothing anomalous in the personas or backgrounds of Goodwin or Poulten in the military that I know and love.

  25. Publius says:


    It is 8:47 pm Friday night and I am still able to get the Goodwin story on the free website.
    Perhaps you should make the link and when it goes dead, it goes dead.
    My concern here, is for clear and informed debate to work the origination of the controversey should be easily accessible.

  26. Eleanor Rigby says:

    Greg P, you continue to either not understand or refuse to acknowlege the concerns that I raise about Sam P being in the ad and the questions it raises about the impartiality of his radio station, or that the use of a ‘comfortable’ soldier speaking to the issue of his need for the GI Bill to help get him through law school was something that indeed is a legitimate issue that the Sun was correct in pointing out, just not on the front page. It would have been more appropriate in a ‘political notebook’ column.

    Since Dick won’t post a link because it will expire I will, when it expires it expires.

  27. KM Murphy says:

    As I understand this story, people are all up in arms because the Goodwin kid took advantage of the GI Bill and had the government pay for his college….Is that it??

    Other than sponsoring the Bill, Tsongas has nothing to do with this story.

    It’s simple..the parents are very wealthy and the tax payers paid for their kid to go to college….

    Does he deserve the benefit…..sure..he did do the time…but I really think taking the benefit was in BAD taste.

    Let me ask you, If that kid got mortally wounded do you think Ma and Pa Goodwin would let him sit in a VA Hospital …. Yea, I don’t think so.