The Spotlight Movie: “Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus”

() wolfJack Dunn had to threaten suit to clear his name. The movie producer of Spotlight finally admitted on the cusp of facing a costly suit that Dunn never said the words attributed to him. This admission was not done until after the Oscar for best picture was given to Spotlight. It was thought best to hide the lies until then. That the movie admitted lying about him calls into question its whole truthfulness: lie in one thing lie in all.    

It’s worse though. One Globe reporter, Walter “Robby” Robinson who knew that Dunn never said those words was quoted as saying about the meeting where Dunn is shown making those statements: “I remember it quite well.” He said the scene is faithful to what occurred in the meeting  — “That’s what happened in 2002, and that’s what the scene is about.”

We know now that could not be the case.

We also do not know what the other Globe reporter, Sacha Pfeiffer, also at the meeting said about it. According to what was reported in the paper when the issue came up:  “The filmmakers based the scene on the recollections of Robinson, which were vetted by Pfeiffer.” Did she too allow the lies to linger? The Boston Herald’s headline read: “Globe reporters defend portrayal of Jack Dunn in movie.” 

How much of the Spotlight is based on fabrication? I’ve heard that it portrayed the Globe reporters as courageous; but as we’ve seen in real life they lacked the courage to acknowledge the truth. A leopard does not change his spots. These reporters let a good man twist in the wind and allowed his reputation to be shredded based upon an admitted fiction. It brings back memories of the Globe reporters dealing with Billy Bulger.

This time, its victim was not a public figure like Bulger. The law is such that there is almost no chance of a public figure to sue and win against a newspaper. It is otherwise when a private individual is libeled. The victim here, Jack Dunn, had a very good chance of winning.

To right the wrong to him Dunn hired a prestigious law firm in Boston Todd and Weld. They told the producer of Spotlight, Open Road Studio, admit you lied or suffer the consequences. Open Road knowing it had fabricated Dunn’s role in the movie admitted its wrong.

As is the case with most movies based on historical events, ‘Spotlight’ contains fictionalized dialogue that was attributed to Mr. Dunn for dramatic effect.”  The producers also agreed to donate money to certain charities.

In the movie the words put in Dunn’s mouth were: “It’s a big school, Robbie. You know that. And we are talking about seven alleged victims over, what, eight years?” Also, “This is ridiculous. You are reaching for a story here.” And then, “We know you care about the school as much as we do.”

There were two articles in the Globe about this matter at the time. One, previously mentioned was on November 25, 2015, where the reporter defended the fiction.  The other on November 22  by a columnist noted Jack Dunn after seeing the movie’s false portrayal of him at the meeting with the two Globe reporters threw up. The columnist brushed off his complaint saying screenwriters and filmmakers “make stuff up.” He said “the real problem . . . is that fictional dialogue . . . was put in the mouth of a real person.” Apparently in his mind lies, “fictional dialogue”, in a film purporting to represent a true situation is fine.

The columnist emailed the director who co-wrote the screenplay about Dunn’s complaint.  In an email response the director wrote: “We spent an enormous time researching in-depth what happened in Boston . . . we feel confident . . . the movie captures with a high degree of authenticity the nature of events, personalities, and pressures of the time.” We now know that too is false. The columnist  ended his column by taking a gratuitous shot at Cardinal Bernard Law.

The Globe noted the film producers admission that Dunn’s dialogue was made up. Others also noted it. But that leaves much to be done.

Isn’t Dunn owed an apology by the Globe?  Shouldn’t those reporters who knowingly let the lie linger suffer something for the wrongful suffering they caused Jack Dunn? How do we believe anything they say when they knowing let a false statement cause harm to a person and all they had to do was admit the truth. It would have cost them nothing. Does this lack of character infect all of their work.  And, what does it really say about Spotlight?




  1. Back to the Globe Spotlight Team…are these the same “heroes” that smeared and crucified Patrolman Joe Lawless? You would think that with the march of time, change of owners, and maybe some journalistic maturity, that things would change.

    I’m reminded of going into the local and watching the Sox and an old-timer muttering ” We need left-handed pitching”. Now I’m the old guy muttering about left-handed pitching and the Globe. Nothing changes.

    • Paul:

      Some things never change – the Globe has its way of doing business like the FBI. It is not responsible to anyone other than itself so the mistakes of the past are repeated over and over again and the biases are repeated over and over again. True nothing changes at the Globe and now that the owner of the Globe owns the Red Sox nothing will change there. I’m not sure they need a left handed pitcher; perhaps if they got a left handed catcher who was a switch hitter they would be better off.

  2. Bill Jr.

    Your Dad is an honourable man and not corrupt.

    Keep us posted. Thanks.

  3. Bob, ( if that’s your real name) give me a call (617-817-6527) and we can meet so I can set you straight about my father’s integrity and veracity.
    Bill Bulger Jr.

    • Bill, Is your Ex-wife named Ana? translator at the courthouse in Fall River/New Bedford?

    • Sorry for the delay in answering. Your offer of a meeting took me aback. After thinking it over, I decided that a meeting is not necessary.
      I based my comment on the public record. There was general agreement that there was an attempt to punish Judge Daher of the Boston Housing Court when he chose Harvey Chopp as clerk rather than Patrick McDonough. When I say general agreement, I mean that even Matt Connolly on this blog assumes that the attempt to punish Daher happened. Matt’s defense is to say that the retaliation was justified.
      Contrast this to Senator Bulger’s contention that the whole episode was a calculated, deliberate lie. He didn’t claim that he had the right to do what he did, or that something might have happened but he didn’t know about it. He claimed it never happened, and he labelled his accusers liars.
      If you have information that supports the Senator’s contention, you shouldn’t be asking for meetings with bloggers. Make the information public. This blog would the perfect place.
      If you want to claim that an obscure old controversy like this shouldn’t be used to judge everything Senator Bulger ever did as a public servant. I don’t necessarily disagree.
      But in that case I hope you agree with me that this whole post is bogus. The idea that because in one scene in a movie about the Globe contains flawed dialog, that consequently everything the Globe has ever published is wrong. . .
      that’s just silly. It’s silly even in Latin.
      It’s not the first time Matt Connolly has tried to have it both ways. I wanted to show how “falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus” could apply in ways that he might not like. I guess I hit a nerve.

      • Bob:

        I’ve told you before that you really don’t understand the facts other than what you have read in the Boston Globe about Bill Bulger. You have a chance to have your misconceptions cleared up and you punt. You do so saying you rely on the public record which is the Globe which I’ve shown over and over again is a very unreliable reporter of events. You seek to remain in the miasmas of ignorance. Of course that is your choice but certainly not the one who is looking for the truth.

        What is amazing is how you backed down. You now suggest that the “obscure old controversy” should not be used to judge Bill Bulger but that is exactly what you purported to do in you original post. Not only that you went back to the old saw 75 State Street about which you know very little other than what the Globe wrote.
        Fleeing from the truth you then suggest you brought up the Bulger matter to show that my post was bogus. If that was your intent there were easier ways to do it than to demean Bill Buiger. You could have just stated it straight out.

        Even in reading my post you misunderstood that. The gist of it was that the people at the Globe knew that the words put in Jack Dunn’s mouth were false. It would have been easy for them to say that he did not say them but they not only did not say that but they said he did say it knowing that he didn’t. That is far beyond “flawed dialogue.” It is certainly cruel to let a person with an upright reputation be slandered and to add to the matter by saying the slander is right. That absolutely reflects upon a person at the Globe’s integrity (actually two). Not only those people but their co-workers and supervisors. All the Globe people involved in this matter were content to let Jack Dunn be slandered knowing that it was wrong. Not only content but added to the lie by suggesting the liar was telling the truth. If you don’t think that reflects upon the type of people at that newspaper where not one had the courage to spare a man’s reputation that was being wrongfully torn apart then it is not surprising you believe all that is written there. If you can’t see the gravity of that matter it is clear to me why you were unable to see the other things I have written about.

        Armed as you are with your certainty about these matters as you have written over the years as you continued to attack Bill Bulger I would have thought you would leaped at the chance to discuss them with someone who knows a lot about them. When given the chance you run and blather out some puerile excuse. You have a chance to continue to walk in darkness or be enlightened. Perhaps you will reconsider your stance.

  4. “Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus” is exactly my point about Senator Bulger. He certainly lied about the attempt to punish the Boston Housing Court, denying that any such thing ever happened.
    Not even you believe him, despite your tortuous defense that somehow, without Senator Bulger’s knowledge, his staff, acting on a hunch that he might not disapprove, undertook to extort the Chief Judge of the Housing Court. Even if that unbelievable fairy tale had a shred of truth to it, Bulger is still a liar. You know and I know that his denial is a lie.
    “Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus”. Why would anyone believe this demonstrable liar about anything? Why would anyone believe his far-fetched fairy tale that he told to account for half of Harold Brown’s fee ending up in his bank account? How can anyone believe anything Senator Bulger ever said?
    “Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus”

  5. The Globe knowingly let a lie linger. Par for the course for the Globe.