Boomer Esiason and WFAN morning team reflect on ex-host Craig Carton’s conviction on federal fraud charges
Craig Carton’s former WFAN colleagues on Thursday opened what used to be his morning show with their thoughts on his conviction the previous day on federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud, expressing sadness and regrets.
It began at the top of the 6 a.m. hour and lasted 12 minutes, after which Carton’s former co-host, Boomer Esiason, invited listeners to call in on the subject if they wished.
The discussion actually began on the 5:40 a.m. “warm-up” show featuring producer Al Dukes and update man Jerry Recco, during which Recco said “I’m usually very excited to come to work. Today is kind of ‘yuck,’ I’m not going to lie . . . Some of the vile comments [about Carton on social media], it just blew me away the wrong way.”
At 6 a.m., Esiason said, “I think all of us are saddened by the news. We had all held out hope that Craig would somehow find his way out of what he got himself into. There are victims in this case. I don’t want to in any way shape or form take away from what they’ve had to deal with over the last 14 months.
“There were people who were asked to go on the stand and testify. Their character was called into question. Their reputation was called into question. On behalf of those folks, I hope this gives them closure. As far as Craig is concerned, I worked with him, Jerry worked with him, Al worked with him, Eddie [Scozzare], for 10 years, Bobby [Dwyer] in the back, for 10 years. He was the light of this radio station for many of us.
“Every morning we would walk in here and he was the professional that basically led this radio show for years and years and years. And it was unpredictable, but every day was a different day, and we never had a cross word when we left this studio, and we never, ever got into any sort of arguments, disagreements or anything with the exception of maybe once or twice about other personalities on this radio station.
“So yesterday when the news came down I wasn’t shocked. I was saddened. I was saddened for his family. I will miss Craig. I have missed Craig. But the show here goes on. And unfortunately for you, Gregg [Giannotti], you’ve had to inherit that chair, and that chair obviously comes with it a lot of responsibility and everything else. You’ve done an amazing job in your own right trying to make the show what it has become between you and I.
“It is just a sad closure of just 14 months of uncertainty. For anybody out there who’s ever had anybody in their life whose dealt with any sort of addiction, drugs, alcohol, gambling, this is a cautionary tale about how your life can spiral out of control and how it can affect so many around you, including your own family, people that you work with and the people that you try to do business with on the outside and last night there was a moment that I had where I said, I can’t believe it’s finally come to an end and it led us to where we are today.
“There were victims. There’s Craig, there’s us, there’s the station, there’s the Barclays Center, there’s Brigade Capital, there are his kids, his wife, there are his own family and friends that are out there probably feeling the same way we are this morning.”
Said Dukes, “He was not a bad person. I don’t think he set out to do any of these things. Clearly he talked on the air that he played blackjack, high-stakes blackjack. I saw him win many, many times, never saw him lose once. And it’s the classic thing of when it’s going good you hear about it and know about it, and when it’s going bad it’s not really talked about. It’s not really a topic of casual conversation.
“So I was not aware he was losing money. When he would win I would see it sometimes. But for a couple of misconceptions, people thinking that we were all in the know, not a single person at this radio station was called to court, so there is no way that we were knowing all the things that were going on in his life. One of the things that I always thought was amazing about this thinking back is how his personality and the way he treated people here did not change, so there was no way to know when he was having good days or bad days because he was the same guy every day when he used to come in here and joke around and blast his music and we’d prepare for the show. That’s what I saw every day.
“So this idea that we all knew all this stuff going on or that I hear reports that Craig stole from people’s 401Ks, that did not happen. Craig was not selling people fake tickets. He wasn’t ripping off your 401K. He got involved with what seems to be some bad guys. He was doing bad things. He wasn’t ripping off the little man going to work every day or selling you fake tickets. What he did was wrong, 100 percent. But there’s this misconception of what his crime really was and what he was doing.”
Said Recco, “At 10 o’clock he was about as good a guy to me and my family as anyone I’ve ever met. There was a sense of depression yesterday. I expected the verdict. I was not surprised by it. And yet at the same time when it happened my first reaction was to shut my phone off, which I did, and boy I’m glad I did, because when I woke up this morning [and saw the social media reaction] it made me want to vomit.
“But there’s a sense of responsibility that I feel, too. I’m with Al in that I didn’t know the depths of what was going on. A lot of what we did with him was in good fun. I did not realize the issues were as bad as what they were. I don’t know if ‘enabler’ is the right word, but I feel a part of it in one way or another. Being there for him, having fun with him, having nights at Borgata that were a lot of fun, I do feel a little sense of responsibility that I kind of aided him on a path that was just bad. I didn’t know it was as bad as it was.”
Said Scozzare, “When it’s your friend or family, even though maybe it’s wrong, even though you know he’s been found guilty, you still hope that he got off.”
Said Esiason, “At the end of the day you have to take a big deep breath and hope that Craig gets through this next stage of it and when he’s done with that, that somehow, some way he can reconnect with his listeners or he can do something positive to help people deal with what he’s dealt with over the past 14 months because he has basically destroyed a lot of people in his wake, and it’s really sad to watch how the gambling addiction can do that to you.
“You have to take ownership of it, and he will and I don’t know what this is going to lead this to, but I will tell you that we are fortunate enough to have Gregg Giannotti at this radio station. Gregg has found his sea legs over the past three or four months. I’ve been telling you every day you’ve been getting better and better and better.”
Giannotti thanked Carton for calling him when he got the job succeeding him. “He was able to call me and congratulate me and say some kind words,” Giannotti said. “That will always stick with me.”
Esiason said he played golf with Carton over the summer, and occasionally exchanges texts with him.
“Yesterday was the lowest of lows for all of us that have been involved with this and we can only pray and hope that he and his family find solace in the fact that now it’s come to at least somewhat of an end. … It’s a sad day but there will be brighter days somewhere along the line.”