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Kelley and Blair
by Raymond Green
26 April 2004

Jack Kelley started as an intern at USA Today in 1982 and had fascinating stories, albeit partially, if not wholly, fictional.


Leonard Pitts is crying foul on the opinion pages. According to Pitts, there is a double standard in the way Jayson Blair’s New York Times scandal was reported and the way Jack Kelley’s USA Today scandal is presently being reported. The reason? Race, according to Pitts. Blair is black, Kelley is white.

Pitts points out that many columnists and pundits not only criticized Blair, but took it as an opportunity to criticize much larger policies, such as “Affirmative Action,” because of Blair’s race. In Kelley’s case, however, many of the same critics have thus far been silent.

But so what? Blair’s critics bundled their criticism of Blair’s actions, general distrust in media, Affirmative Action, and the accuracy of the Times in general into one argument. Expecting Kelley’s critics to do the same implies ceteris paribus. All other things are not constant; the scenarios are different.

Part of the criticism leveled was the Times’ promotion of Blair “despite a history of corrections, sloppy reporting and lectures from his editors,” and that from CNN. That is precisely why race is a legitimate issue. What, if not for qualifications, led to Blair’s promotion at the Times? All factors imply race was at least partially responsible for his being promoted despite concerns.

Unlike Blair, Kelley wasn’t caught prior to his promotions. Blair had as high as an 18% inaccuracy rate on stories he wrote and less than seven months after receiving disciplinary action from the Times for enormous inaccuracies and blatant lies, he became the lead man covering the sniper shootings in Washington.

Not only was there a history of questionable events prior to Blair’s promotion within the Times, the pace at which he accelerated in respect to his substandard work raises some eyebrows. The Washington City Paper reports that a Washington Post staffer “recalls overhearing two colleagues chatting in the bathroom… marveling at how this cub reporter who had once filed stories for the Post's community pullout sections could have risen so fast at the Times.” That was before the scandal erupted.

On the other hand, Kelley started as an intern the same year USA Today was founded in 1982 and had fascinating stories, albeit partially, if not wholly, fictional. They were both liars and betrayed the public and their employers all while disgracing their profession. However, we know how and why Kelley was promoted to star reporter and his discrepancies have all come to light after the investigation. Blair was promoted to cover the largest domestic story since 9/11 despite the fact that he had already been disciplined by Howell Raines, the Times’ Executive Editor at the time.

Then there is the issue of the papers. The Times is not USA Today. They are a stark contrast and what conservative could honestly say they don’t at least partially take pleasure in watching the Times potentially reap the consequences of a policy they vigorously advocate. The Times has aligned itself politically with the left and in doing so, has created a growing distrust going back 70 years to Walter Duranty, the reporter who covered up the crimes of Stalin. Let’s face it; many people simply dislike the Times with a passion, and for good reason. Another chapter of dishonesty within the Times goes a lot further than it will for the relatively new USA Today.

But this brings another issue to the forefront, and that is what forced diversity has done to this country. In one instance, Jayson Blair received preferential treatment because he was black. In this scenario, he is promoted without regard to qualifications and in doing so, brings the paper to a “low point” in its 150+ year record. In another scenario, he was promoted just as Jack Kelley was, by writing good stories based on lies. In this scenario, he is falsely accused of being promoted because he is black and the accusation is unfounded, but widespread.

And that is the moral of the Kelley and Blair comparison. Forced and false diversity based on the color on one’s skin merely prolongs tribulations that would otherwise disappear naturally in the long run. If Blair was promoted because he was qualified and not because he was black, he didn’t need Affirmative Action and the Jesse Jacksons of the world to get him there. Jack Kelley has not been accused of being promoted just because he is white because there is no government or corporate policy advocating preferential treatment to white males. And that is precisely why race baiting tactics encouraging employers and others to promote or hire someone for any other reason than qualifications is wrong. They are policies that do nothing more than give people legitimate reason to question whether something has actually been earned, or given unfairly, and cheapens the rewards for people that have actually earned everything they possess.

Raymond Green's website is SupportNoSpin.com
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