The Boston Herald inspired a contentious segment on Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor” regarding the Tsarnaev family. One hundred thousand bucks in various forms of taxpayer-funded assistance — “a bonanza ranging from cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing — flowed to the family over a ten-year period ending last year, according to the report.
O’Reilly was on fire over the outlays. “They all came here and they all took all of the government assistance — federal and state; because Massachusetts is one of the most liberal federal states in the union. They gamed it — why couldn’t the guy get a job? Why couldn’t he earn a living? Why?”
The Boston Herald report doesn’t include a great deal of detail on the disbursements of assistance, in part because the records haven’t yet been made public. So we may have to wait a while before judging the fairness of O’Reilly’s allegations that they “gamed it.”
Yet one anti-“gamed” piece of evidence comes through from the now-countless pieces of Tsarnaev family portraiture to emerge from journalism mills in recent weeks: Anzor Tsarnaev and Zubeidat Tsarnaev don’t seem to fit the welfare stereotype that O’Reilly appears to be pushing here.
Anzor obtained cars in bad shape, made cosmetic fixes and then sold those vehicles for a profit. Sometimes, when he needed parts, he would show up at Nissenbaum’s Auto, a nearby parts and repair shop.
Several times, workers said, Anzor went into the parts yard to find a bracket or screw and emerged offering to pay a small sum for a handful of items. But employees would see his pockets stuffed. Confronted, they say, he admitted picking up a few other meager items.
Now try this account from the New York Times:
Once an official in the prosecutor’s office in Kyrgyzstan, [Anzor Tsarnaev] had been reduced to working as an unlicensed mechanic in the back lot of a rug store in Cambridge.
“He was out there in the snow and cold, freezing his hands to do this work on people’s cars,” said Chris Walter, owner of the store, Yayla Tribal Rug. “I did not charge him for the space because he was a poor, struggling guy with a good heart.”
And now try this from the indispensable Boston Globe:
Tsarnaev, 46, has told media outlets he was a lawyer in Kyrgyzstan, where the family lived until 2001. But in the United States, he supported his wife and four children by working as an unlicensed mechanic. It did not help that he spoke minimal English. Tsarnaev spent his days fixing old cars behind a chain-link fence, borrowing tools so frequently from garages across the street that one eventually shut him off.
As for the work habits of the mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, there’s this testimonial from one of her clients, right there on FoxNews.com:
I started getting facials from Zubeidat Tsarnaeva (pronounced Zu-bey-da) six years ago when I was 17 at a spa in the Boston area. She soon after left the spa and contacted my mom to have us start coming to her house, at 410 Norfolk St., right on the line of Cambridge and Somerville.
All throughout my senior year of high school and four years of college I went to her house about three times a year. … She gave a damn good facial, often working on my skin for two or three hours, and this is why my sister, mom and I continued to go back to her home for years.
Not quite the black-and-white picture put forth by O’Reilly. But then, we don’t turn to “The Factor” for subtleties.