It could be an episode of “Dateline: Who’s fibbing?”
The show would open with the eyebrow-raising claim that New Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca tried to hire the region’s sharpest Olympic critic.
But did he?
Smith College professor Andrew Zimbalist, who for months has criticized the local Olympic bid in just about every mode of media short of semaphore flags, claimed Tuesday on WGBH that Pagliuca offered him a consulting job with Boston 2024 a few days after Pagliuca became chairman of the Olympic bid committee in May.
“He said, ‘Andy I just finished your book. I really like it. I think it points the way to how to do this correctly and I want you to work for me.’
“That’s almost verbatim,” Zimbalist said, in a Globe interview after his radio appearance.
Zimbalist said he declined but that Pagliuca wouldn’t drop it.
“In the course of about half-an-hour [on the telephone] — could have been 45 minutes or longer — he interrupted me to say, ‘I want you to work for me’ several times,” Zimbalist said.
Not so, says Boston 2024.
Yes, Pagliuca read Zimbalist’s book, and yes, he phoned the professor and other prominent opponents to listen to their perspectives.
But a job offer? The committee says no way:
“Mr. Zimbalist was never offered a job period and his claim is completely false,” said Boston 2024 chief operating officer Erin Murphy, in a statement.
“After being named Chair, Steve reached out to a number of people to solicit their opinions including Mr. Zimbalist. During that conversation, Steve made it clear he was interested only in voluntary feedback with the goal to ensure that Boston 2024 conducted a full review of the benefits and risks of hosting the Olympic Games.”
Christa Carone, a marketing executive who is volunteering with Boston 2024, said in an interview that she was sitting next to Pagliuca when the bid chairman was on the phone with Zimbalist.
“I can tell you with absolute certainty that he did not offer him a job,” she said. The conversation, according to Carone, was about Zimbalist’s book and issues related to Olympic bidding. At one point Pagliuca told Zimbalist directly he was not trying to offer him a job, she said.
Zimbalist is sticking with his story.
“If he wants to deny he made me an offer, that’s fine,” he said. “Who cares?”