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Scot Lehigh

Unplugged

Keep the mic away from Jay Severin

(Dina Rudick/ Globe Staff; Photo Illustration/ H. Hopp-Bruce)
By Scot Lehigh
Globe Columnist / April 6, 2011

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IT’S NOT every day that you get accused of lying by Pinocchio. Or at least by punditry’s version of that fabled fibber.

But since that’s just happened to me, I’d like to set the record straight.

I’m talking about WTKK yakmeister Jay Severin. Over the years, I’ve sometimes taken Jay to task for bigoted comments or dialogue-debasing billingsgate or his call for bombing various Muslim cities into oblivion. And I’ve applied the occasional pin-prick of reality to the hot-air balloon of Severinian pretension and self-invention.

All in all, ours has been an asymmetrical relationship. I’ve told the truth about Jay — and he’s lied about me. But now Jay has outdone himself: He’s lying about lying — in order to accuse me of dishonesty.

Severin was just suspended again by 96.9, and to digress for a moment, some are puzzled about the station’s true motivation. Sure, he called the women making sexual harassment allegations against American Apparel chairman Dov Charney “whores.’’ And yes, he claimed that when he had his own business, “I slept with virtually every young college girl I hired to be an intern or an employee for my firm.’’

But that kind of discourse is just par for the course for Jay. Which makes close observers suspect WTKK is casting about for an excuse to unload a highly paid host whose act has grown tired. “They loved his shtick when his ratings were good, but they hate it now that his numbers are tanking,’’ noted one station employee.

Yet it was an entirely different Severin assertion that left me shaking my head in does-he-really-think-his-listeners-are-that-easily-duped disbelief last week. During one of his periodic anti-Globe tirades, Severin offered this statement: “A Boston Globe columnist has claimed repeatedly over the years that I claimed I won a Pulitzer Prize. It’s a total lie. I never ever said it. But it was written several times in the Boston Globe. I was quoted in the Boston Globe as having said something I never said.’’

That columnist would be me. Now, a listener unfamiliar with Jay’s tenuous relationship with the truth might be inclined to think that he wouldn’t offer such a stout denial in the face of the facts. So here, again, is what Severin said on his show back on September 9, 2005: “But since journalism began, and up until the time at least that I took my master’s degree at Boston University and may I add without being obnoxious, up till and including the time that I received a Pulitzer Prize for my columns for excellence in on-line journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism, the highest possible award for writing on the Web, right up to and including that in 1998, you still had to practice journalism to be a journalist.’’

In fact, Severin has never won a Pulitzer Prize for anything. (As a further factual note, though he was a graduate student there, he has not received a master’s from BU.) When I called him back then about his Pulitzer claim, Jay tried to explain away one false assertion with another. “What I said was, there is a prize that my editor told me is the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for Web journalism,’’ he maintained. “That is a hell of a caveat.’’

Actually, on the radio, Severin hadn’t offered any such caveat — and even if he had, that assertion would still have been several galaxies removed from the truth. Although MSNBC.com did win an Online Journalism Award, that recognition was for its overall site, not for Severin’s individual contributions to it.

So what’s next? Perhaps if Jay makes it back on the air, he could lie about having lied about lying, thereby creating a verbal mobius strip of mendacity.

Optimist that I am, however, I find myself hoping that WTKK might actually experiment with something totally different: A thoughtful, informative, civil — oh yes, and truthful — conservative host.

It’s a role David Brudnoy filled for years here — and a mantle that Dan Rea has now assumed.

Try it, WTKK. You might just find that you respect yourself the next morning.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com.