Former NYC Sports Radio King Craig Carton Reveals How He Lost It All

"Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth" debuts tonight on HBO

October 7, 2020 12:14 pm
Ex-WFAN host Craig Carton
Former WFAN radio host Craig Carton holding oversized playing cards.
Courtesy Al Dukes

On September 6, 2017, editors at The New York Post, The NY Daily News and other tabloids across the country got weeks of front-page fishwrap fodder following the early-morning arrest of sports shock-jock Craig Carton by federal agents at his home in New York City.

Hit with criminal charges including securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy, Carton was forced to resign as the co-host of the No. 1 morning show in NYC, Boomer and Carton. Authorities alleged Carton ran a nearly $7 million Ponzi scheme that promised investors big profits for funding the purchase of concert tickets that in reality was a way for the married father of four to pay off massive personal gambling debts from bad blackjack beats that he’d been keeping secret. It was a salacious story and it ended with Carton being convicted and handed a 42-month sentence in federal prison in Lewisburg, PA, that he began serving in June of 2019.

“I borrowed over $30 million to gamble with,” Carton says in the trailer for Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth, a new HBO documentary about the disgraced host’s journey from behind the microphone to behind bars. “I thought I was the best and I didn’t think any casino could beat me.”

Directed and produced by Martin Dunn and Marie McGovern, the film features revealing interviews with Carton confidants, including his erstwhile co-host Boomer Esiason, ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Boomer & Carton crew members as well as the convicted felon himself.

One of the revelations in the film is that Carton believes he developed the ability to lie and hide his gambling from the people that cared about him as a result of keeping the sexual abuse he had suffered as a child a secret.

“He’d written a chapter about this for his book Loudmouth in 2013 and said the publishers had chosen not to put it in because it didn’t fit the general tenor of the book. They confirmed they chose not to put it in,” Dunn tells InsideHook. “When we were filming at his house and it came to the whole issue of sexual abuse, he said, ‘Look, I wrote this chapter, nobody’s ever read it.’ And he sat in front of the camera and read portions of it. I have to admit, it was a very moving and poignant and touching moment because he really opened up in a way that none of us had seen before.”

McGovern also felt it was necessary to shine a light on that part of Carton’s story.

“Folks who have had any kind of issues with childhood abuse or sexual molestation will see that part of Craig’s story and realize how powerful and profound that time in his life was and how it affected who he ultimately became,” she tells InsideHook. “He said, ‘Ever since I was nine or 10 and decided to not tell anybody about that was when I became good at lying.’ I thought that was a very telling character trait and it was very introspective of him to be able to come out and say that.”

While that detail may not change how everyone feels about Carton, it may change some of the perceptions surrounding his arrest and imprisonment.

“I think what he wanted to do was, if nothing else, at least try to explain how someone can work very hard and work their way to the top and fall,” McGovern says. “And fall very quickly too. I mean, literally a day. Even though his downfall was kind of coming behind the scenes, he was living a double life. We wanted to show folks that the Craig Carton that went to jail was certainly not the same Craig Carton that emerged from jail.”

As McGovern notes, although he’s still on house arrest, Carton was released from prison this summer. He’s aware that the road is likely his last chance to make a comeback.

“This is a human-interest story,” Dunn says. “The story of people who make it to the top and then, by making bad decisions, lose it all, is one of the stories of the ages. It’s a time-honored story. The chance to tell it was an incredible opportunity for people who are storytellers. Everybody we spoke to is absolutely certain there will be a comeback, but Craig also knows this is his one chance and that people won’t support him again if he goes off the rails. This is a story of somebody who found they couldn’t control a compulsion and the things that go into that, and I think that comes across. It is a story of downfall, but hopefully ultimately a redemption. Craig accepts he’s got this one opportunity and cannot afford to screw it up again.”

Dunn and McGovern’s documentary debuts tonight on HBO at 9:00 p.m. and will be available for on-demand viewing beginning on Thursday.

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