The Jayson Blair Scandal: A Tale of Two Compulsions

By: Lee A. Daniels

Director of Publications

National Urban League
[ Guest Columnist ]

For anyone who honestly believes that race is no longer a significant factor in the discourse about American life, the Jayson Blair scandal provides a much-needed education.

In the past two weeks Blair, a young African-American reporter for the New York Times who was once considered a rising star there, has been shown to be a deceiver of very high, or rather, low, order.

And, as the full extent of Blair's deception has become clearer and the story has mushroomed in the media, the discussion of it has come to be starkly framed in racial terms.

"Whether or not this is a scandal born of ambition, it is also being cast as a story about race,"Time magazine's story this week declared. "As Blair's record came to light, some colleagues concluded that he got second-chances that others might not have."

Seth Mnookin, a Newsweek reporter who wrote its story on the scandal, said on CNN's Reliable Source news program, "What the Times still needs to talk about is the real issue of whether [Blair] was pushed along because he is black."

Mnookin's comment came despite the New York Times' statement in a long story Sunday about Blair's misdeeds that he was not "coddled" because he was African-American.

William Safire, the Times' conservative columnist, wrote Monday that some of his "ideological soulmates" are chortling at the "affirmative-action angle [of the scandal].'"

"See what happens, they taunt,' wrote Safire of the jibes he had apparently heard, while making clear he disagreed with them "when you treat a minority employee with kid gloves, promoting him when he deserves to be fired?

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