It is time for me to apologize.
To apologize for the dozens of news articles and columns I have written during the past 24 years that, even if in just a small way, helped Bob Carlson become the seemingly untouchable and powerful and respected person who had such unlimited access and control of this community for decades.
I’m not naive or egotistical enough to not understand that I didn’t do this on my own. I don’t have that much influence. But I was a party to it. I helped. He, of course, knew I could and he used that to his advantage and I went right along like a well-trained, love-sick little soldier.
It would appear from the 104-page investigation into his alleged child sexual abuse allegations that while I was writing stories of his honor, virtue, selflessness and good work, he was sexually molesting little boys in dark parking lots.
And, of course, the truth is you cannot be honorable, virtuous, selfless or good if you are sexually abusing anyone, particularly children.
There is no room for both and I may have suggested in an earlier column that there was.
I’m sorry. I was wrong if I left that impression. There isn’t.
Carlson and I had a pretty long history. I met him while he was chaplain for the Bangor Police Department and I was a very young and inexperienced police beat reporter. I immediately fell for his charm, his sense of humor and what appeared to be his total commitment to others.
He was the coolest, most tolerant, funniest, open and loving minister I had ever met in my life, and I was smitten from the beginning.
Eventually my fiance and I joined his church. He performed our marriage ceremony and baptized our children.
He counseled us and lifted us up when we struggled. When he jumped to his death last November my family had to scramble for someone else to conduct my sister’s funeral. She was in the process of dying and Bob was on tap for that job.
During much of my career I had a decent reputation as a good investigative reporter.
Sometimes I may have got a bit of a big head about it.
Trust me now. I have been kicked down to size.
I am clearly not nearly as good a judge of character as I once thought, and being a good judge of character is at least a part of what being a decent investigative journalist is about.
But of this I can assure you: I never had any idea, not a thought, not a hint or a clue that Bob Carlson was not exactly who he portrayed himself to be.
Just a couple of months before he jumped, I called him up to talk about my son, whom Bob knew so well.
I told him that my son was having some teenage angst and perhaps had some spiritual questions I didn’t know how to answer. He was having trouble sleeping, I told him.
Perhaps you guys could have lunch? I asked.
Spend some time together?
Bob told me he’d be happy to, but time slipped by — thank God — days, then weeks, then a month or two and then — well, then the end.
I know there is nothing I can do now to help the victims or their families who have spent years or even decades watching Bob Carlson be splayed across their newspaper and TV screen as a community leader — a hero.
But for whatever role I played in perpetuating that image, I’m sorry.
I hope that you find some solace that I and others truly now know and understand that he was not a good man.