Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 27, 2004
POLITICS: Kevin Drum Plays The Oldies
Kevin Drum, quoting a columnist and adding his own question:
When a white person screws up, it ignites a debate on the screw up. When a black person screws up, it ignites a debate on race.
The subject, of course, is Jack Kelley vs. Jayson Blair, and Pitts' point is precisely on target. Don't the folks who loudly insisted that affirmative action was to blame for Jayson Blair's transgressions owe us an explantion for their relative silence about the far worse journalistic fabrications of Jack Kelley?
This recycled canard makes no more sense than it did at the time of the Blair scandal, so why answer it afresh? Instead, I'll repeat what I wrote (partly in response to Drum) at the time:
Had this happened at a less self-righteously PC publication than the Times - say, The New Republic, for example, let alone a conservative paper like the Wall Street Journal - the race point might have been ignored by most commentators. Scam artist being black: not a story. Scam artist being black and working for a paper that loves to talk about its own 'diversity' and editorialize in favor of affirmative action: story. I guarantee that's why people like Kaus and Howard Kurtz are quick to read it this way. In that sense, conservatives have jumped on the Times for this for precisely the same reason liberal commentators jumped on Bill Bennett (albeit with the difference that a massive fraud on the public is a wee bit bigger deal than a guy spending his own money on slot machines): because the Times has been such a scold on issues of race and trumpeted its own willingness to promote "diversity," there's a natural impulse to put them on the spot when a beneficiary of such programs blows up in the paper's face.