Craig Carton’s comeback could begin soon after the debut of the documentary of his downfall.
The former WFAN morning show star is expected to receive a formal offer to return to the station as its afternoon drive host by the end of the week, according to The New York Post. Carton, 51, has been off the ‘FAN since his 2017 arrest and subsequent conviction and incarceration on federal fraud charges sparked by an out-of-control gambling habit.
Carton’s return is not a done deal, according to The Post, as he also holds a morning show offer from Philadelphia’s 97.5 The Fanatic. But there is an industry belief Carton will end up back at WFAN, according to the report.
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News of Carton’s potential WFAN return comes days before HBO’s “Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth” is scheduled to debut on Oct. 7. At the end of the documentary – NJ Advance Media viewed a screener – is a final scene informing the viewer Carton has “negotiated a radio comeback” and “vows to be as outrageous as ever on air.”
Carton’s anticipated return is expected to lead to more musical chairs among WFAN’s daily lineup. While Carton’s former partner, Boomer Esiason, is expected to remain with Gregg Gianotti on the morning show, Carton’s return is expected to lead to Joe Benigno’s retirement while Evan Roberts shifts back to middays, likely teaming with Maggie Gray at the expense of Marc Malusis.
It makes sense for WFAN to put Carton in the afternoon after watching Benigno and Roberts get their clocks cleaned by ESPN Radio’s The Michael Kay Show. But he is going to need a partner. Speculation has already begun, according to The Post:
FAN is also trying to figure out whom to pair Carton with if he goes head-to-head with the “Michael Kay Show.” An ex-athlete is the preferred choice. Carton worked well with Boomer Esiason for a decade. FAN may need to expand off that idea if it cannot find the right fit.
So who could it be? Two names that fit the criteria immediately come to mind: Former Giants running back Tiki Barber, who is already in the CBS Radio family and recently made headlines for his criticism of Saquon Barkley, and former Jets offensive lineman Willie Colon, a Bronx native who currently co-hosts a Barstool Sports morning show on Sirius XM Radio.
Carton resigned from WFAN shortly after his arrest. He convicted for his role in a Ponzi-like ticket brokering scheme in November 2018 after misappropriating investment funds to pay off gambling debts. Carton was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in federal prison in April 2019 and was released in June 2020 on good behavior.
The upcoming 76-minute documentary is extremely raw and powerful, spending its early minutes focusing on Carton’s career and the success of “Boomer and Carton” before his off-air issues tore it all apart.
“He ruined what we all had,” Esiason says in the documentary.
Carton claims he was given $30 million by others to bet on blackjack, his vice of choice, during his spiral. He details how he hid the addiction from Esiason, his wife Kim and many others around him, including former Gov. Chris Christie, who he met during his days at New Jersey 101.5 and developed a close friendship with.
Christie, who is also interviewed in the documentary, said he pressed Carton several times on whether he needed help with his gambling, but Carton denied it each time.
Carton says he considered committing suicide about a month before he was arrested – an account confirmed by his former 101.5 producer, Chabod Williams – and nearly jumped off a ski lift during a vacation in British Columbia. He also discusses being sexually assaulted as a child, and how that trauma has impacted the rest of his life – a revelation he first made prior to his sentencing.
The documentary also discusses the strain on the relationship between Carton and Esiason more than any other media account to date; both men confirm they had a falling-out after Carton’s arrest, but have since rebuilt their relationship and are in “a very good place now.”
There is no mention of Carton nemesis Mike Francesa in the documentary. Rutgers does make a brief appearance, as Carton remarks that Don Imus’ racist comments about the Scarlet Knights’ women’s basketball team in 2007 changed his career by opening the door for him at WFAN.
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James Kratch may be reached at [email protected].