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By Jon Christian
Copyright 2003 - All Rights Reserved
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before has a newspaper reporter written a more contemplative piece than
that which was recently penned by Wall Street Journal senior editorial
page writer Jason Riley on the forced resignation of New York Times reporter
Jayson Blair for fabricating stories
for Americas largest daily newspaper. Blair, a racial-minority reporter,
was not hired because of his superior writing ability or his investigative
acumen. He was hired because he was an attractive black applicant with
the right academic credentials and a yuppyish politically-correct appearance
that would make his editorial supervisors look good to the diversity-oriented
senior management when Blair was eventually given his own private glass-walled
cubicle where he would then pass out writing assignments to junior reporters
and journalism interns at the New York Times.
From the moment he was hired, Blair was
on a career fast track for a junior management slot at the New York Times.
The Times, which is the most politically-correct newspaper in the United
States, claims to publish only the news that is fit to print--an adage,
I guess, that's not quite as true as its 100+ year old pledge implies.
Now they can't even claim that they print all the news that is true.
If you recall, a few years ago, an up-and-coming
black reporter with the Boston Globe named Patricia Smith was fired when
it was learned she not only made
up the people involved in some of her reports, but fabricated incidents
as well. Smith, like Blair, was being coddled by management for a high
profile low-tier management role. The Boston Globe, like the New York
Times likes to tout the fact that they are "equality" opportunity
employers (as opposed to equal opportunity employers).
But more notorious than either Blair or
Smith was Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke. Cooke authored a heart-wrenching
story that appeared in the Post on September 29, 1980. Her tale related
the sad story of a young boy she named "Jimmy." Jimmy, she reported,
was introduced to heroin by his mother's boyfriend. In her article, Cooke
wrote that "...Jimmy is eight years old and a third generation heroin
addict, a precocious little boy with sandy hair, velvety brown eyes and
needle marks freckling the baby smooth skin of his thin brown arms."
The article evoked so much sympathy that the people in Washington wanted
to help Jimmy. As it turned out, there was no Jimmy. Cooke, who received
a Pulitzer Prize for the story on April 13, 1981, made it all up. Jimmy,
his mother, and her heroin addict boyfriend were all fiction. Cooke blamed
the management of the Washington Post for expecting reporters to be superstars
like Woodward and Bernstein who, themselves, won Pulitzer Prizes for their
coverage of Watergate.
On Sunday, May 11 the New York Times printed
a front page mea culpa on Jayson Blair. Missing from their apology to
their readers was an admission that the New York Times places affirmative
action policies over actual talent or journalistic integrity. There is
an assumption that if two liberal reporters have the same classroom training,
they are equally qualified to slant the news to the Times' particular
biased view. By eliminating talent or personal intellect or integrity
from the hiring equation, affirmative action appears to be a completely
unbiased equalizer. In point of fact, affirmative action assumes equality
without the need for competition. If there is no reason to compete, there
is no need for sweat equity dedication and no impetus to strive
for success, since success is imputed--and the rewards that success demands
will be freely given. Nor is there a need for personal work integrity
since there is are no repercussions or penalties for failure.
Advocates of affirmative action justify
the use of "set asides" to assure that members of gender, ethnic
or racial minorities are guaranteed success in the great American dream.
Yet, no where in the Constitution is anyone guaranteed that they will
be, or even should be, successful in their career endeavors.
only thing we, as Americans, are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights is
the freedom to compete. And even then, nowhere in the Constitution or
in the Bill of Rights are we guaranteed that we will be allowed to compete
on a level playing field. Such guarantees would eliminate the value of
personal competition, and thus hinder genuine competition in the free
Pamela Johnson, like Jayson Blair, was fired.
The news stories about both of them gained legs not because of their lack
of integrity as reporters, or due to the fact that reporters on two large
metropolitan newspapers made up portions of their news stories, They became
front page news because both of them were products of affirmative action.
On Tuesday, May 13, Washington Post reporter
Terry Neal (also an African American reporter) attempted to defend affirmative
action even as he personally chastised Blair, whom he called "...an
affront to journalism [who] disgraced an honorable profession that already
suffers a credibility problem." Neal commented that "...when
the story broke, many minority reporters I know said in private conversations
among themselves that it would take only a day or two before some people
erupted in paroxysms of indignation and anger about the effort to diversify
newsrooms." And, of course, when it happened, those reporters felt
both justified and vindicated in their own minds that what was happening
was simply jealous whites complaining about successful blacks.
Neal, in his Washington Post article on diversity, recalled Ruth Shalit,
whom he referred to as "...the young white hotshot reporter..."
who wrote what Neal called a 13,000 word New Republic opus in which she
took on the Washington Post. Neal noted that Washington Post editors found
nearly 40 factual errors in the story. He also noted that Shalit used
materials from other publications without citing sources, etc. Accused
of plagiarism, Neal said that Shalit deflected the allegation by claiming
plagiarism implied intent. What she did, she said, was simply sloppy reporting
(for failing to credit the work of those she cited). I agree with Neal.
When you use others work without supplying authors credit, its
plagiarism. Neal noted that Shalit merely moved to other establishment
media who "...supported her and kept giving her jobs and high profile
Neal then commented on yet another white
reporter, Stephen Glass, who had also been with the New Republic. Neal
described him as "...another fancy-pants reporter who wowed readers...with
the most vivid, colorful writing this town has seen in years." Glass,
Neal observed, was eventually fired for fabricating
news stories. Also fired for fabricating at least portions of their articles
were Reed Cawthorn of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Michael Finkel, a freelancer
for the New York Times, and Mike Barnicle who had, according to Neal,
been previously accused of fabricating quotes. Barnicle reportedly was
caught plagiarizing jokes written by comic George Carlin. According to
Neal, Barnicles punishment for plagiarism was a plush job at MSNBC.
The thrust of Neals argument was that
plagiarism is not a big thing unless it is committed by a black reporter
who is, or could have been, a product of affirmative action. Or worse,
that white reporters are never punished when they fabricate stories or
commit plagiarism while blacks and other minorities are chastised, ridiculed
and fired in a firestorm of media criticism when they commit a journalistic
The Wall Street Journal's Riley drew the
Glass-Blair comparison with unbiased candor and objective honesty. "If
the perpetuator is Stephen Glass, the white fabulist fired five years
ago from the New Republic magazine," Riley opined, "he is just
another ethically challenged youngster who made some very bad decisions
in life. But if the perpetuator is Jayson Blair, the black fabulist who
resigned two weeks ago from the New York Times, he is an example of affirmative
action run amuck.
"Somewhere between the passage of the
1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1978 Supreme Court Bakke decision on university
admissions, blacks forfeited their right to be judged by society as individuals.
The most unfortunate consequence of racial preferences is not that they
produce the occasional Jayson Blair...Far more troubling is that racial
preferences, however well-intentioned, strip blacks of their individuality,
their pride, their humanity. Race-based policies make black achievement
a white allowance, and black failure a group stigma."
While that statement should not be true
in our society in 2003, when you stop and think about it, Mr. Riley is
absolutely correct. And, Mr. Neal is absolutely wrong when he suggests
that the conservative media's claims that upper management at the New
York Times "...coddled" Blair, and denounced such a contemplation
as "...pure buffoonery." Neal raised the angry question "...What
about all the young aggressive white reporters who are pushed along by
overeager white mentors, and are clearly not ready for prime time?"
Neal further shows his own lack of objectivity, and his stout defense
of affirmative action when he first acknowledges Blair's ties to "powerful
mentors" at the New York Times, admitting that in his 14 years as
a journalist, he had never heard of a black reporter which such close
ties to senior management on a major newspaper. Then, assuming the exception
(which he claimed Blair was) negated the rule, he concluded that "...Blair
was an aberration. As an aberration," Neal claimed, "[Jayson
Blair] can't be made an example of any larger social problem."
We live in a society that judges its members
by its achievements--and its failings. If we climb to the pinnacle of
success through our own ingenuity, we have a right to claim that our success
was due entirely to our own sweat equity and our own ambition. If we fail,
our defeat is likewise as singular as our success.
If, on the other hand, our success is achieved
only because of a court-mandated minority affirmative action program,
then Jason Riley is correct when he surmises that black achievement is
based on collective allowances that impute economic, educational, or career
equality without the need for competition. And, if that statement is true
then, conversely, when the stars of affirmative action fall, the collective
system of racial preferences fail as well.
The hucksters of affirmative action know
this to be true. That is, as Riley noted in his Wall Street Journal article,
"...why so many black journalists hung their heads at the revelation
of Mr. Blair's race. Not his "crime"--but at the fact that he
was a product of affirmative action. Had Jayson Blair been a white New
York Times fabulist, he would have been fired and a small blurb (not worthy
of page one) about his termination for journalistic fabrications would
have hit the AP newswire. Admittedly, if that reporter was a conservative--on
top of being a white male--CNN and the liberal earth station television
networks would exploited it into a national lead story. But even then,
it would not have earned editorial space on 4 pages of the New York Times
that the Blair story received. In their story, Managing Editor Howard
Raines, Blair's mentor at the New York Times admitted that Blair was viewed
as a symbol of the paper's commitment to "diversity." Woven
through the 14,000+ word article was an assurance of the Times commitment
to racial diversity--and their conclusion that Blair, not affirmative
action, had failed.
Better had the Times made a commitment to
hire, as reporters, writers with verifiable credentials to attest to their
accurate reporting and writing skills. Unfortunately, affirmative action
mandates an implied equality based on an assumption that skills which
may not exist, must exist because the individual was educated in that
particular career environment. And, that is the failing of affirmative
action. Affirmative action imputes superior equality rather than simply
providing the minority candidate with a level playing field upon which
he or she can fairly compete with his or her academic peers without either
candidate being construed, without competition, to be superior.
Tragically, affirmative action has been
used not only to "equalize" the number of minority reporters
working on America's newspapers, but it has been used universally as a
set aside in all career fields over the last four decades. Colleges and
universities have been required to administer quotas to make
sure that the number of minorities students paralleled the percentages
of minorities within the population--even if they did not have the scholastic
acumen to qualify for admission. Attorneys, educators, engineers, psychologists,
and regretfully, even physicians are products of affirmative action.
When Patrick Chavis, a black applicant,
was admitted to the University of California Medical School at Davis in
1973, he was by no means a scholastic achiever even though his life, up
to that point, was a success story. Chavis was a product of the welfare
system. He was determined to beat the odds and escape his environment.
Chavis grew up in Compton, California. He was the offspring of a single
mom who worked, when she could, as a beautician. He and four siblings
were supported by welfare. He became, at least in the mind of Senator
Edward Kennedy [D-MA] an Alger Hiss success story. Chavis, a product of
the slums of California and Michigan, did, in fact, raise himself up by
his boot straps. Against all odds, he graduated from Albion College in
Michigan with a degree in biology. He earned a Masters degree in
Public Health from the University of California. Shortly after the Hayden
article appeared, Teddy Kennedy noted that Dr. Chavis was "The perfect
example of how affirmative action should work." What Kennedy should
have said was that Chavis was a tragic example of how affirmative action
works. But even more, Chavis is the perfect example--at least in the medical
and legal professions--of why affirmative action doesn't work. Sorrowfully,
the medical community knew it early on but couldnt stop him. Dr.
Chavis set up his medical practice in Lynwood, California.
In 1993 he was accused by Long Beach Memorial
Hospital of mishandling a delivery. Chavis denied the allegation. The
hospital decided to monitor the way Chavis handled his patients
in his charge as long as they were patients in the hospital. Angered by
the hospitals audacity to check up on him, Chavis sued
Long Beach Memorial, charging the hospital with racism. Because Long Beach
Memorial hadnt been watching Chavis long enough to prove that Chavis
was incompetent, Chavis won $1,100,000.00 in damages. A judge overturned
the verdict. When they completed their biographical sketch of Dr. Chavis
as they prepared to write his obituary after he was gunned down by three
men in Hawthorne on July 12, 2002, the Associated Press discovered that
Chavis had been sued for malpractice 21 timesan average of once
for each of his 20 year of medical practice.
As a physician, Chavis was less than average--no
better than his MCATs suggest he was as a student. While he claimed to
have delivered over 10,000 babies as a obstetrician, Chavis was also an
abortionist. Had the medical community taken a closer look at Dr. Chavis
after questions concerning his qualifications first surfaced in 1993,
at least a thousand babies whose lives were painfully taken by Chavis
scalpel might have been spared--and Tammaria Cotton, who went to Dr. Chavis
for a liposuction in 1997--would still be alive today.
When he was admitted to the University of
California Medical School, a white applicant named Allen Bakke--who scored
considerably higher than Chavis and four other black medical students
on his MCATs--was denied admission. Bakke sued. The case ended up in the
U.S. Supreme Court in 1978. The high court ruled that affirmative action
could be used to determine admissions in universities to correct past
racial injustices. In 1996 Jane Fonda's former husband, Tom Hayden wrote
an article in The Nation, about Chavis. He wrote that Dr. Chavis was a
noteworthy OB/GYN while Dr. Bakke was merely an anesthesiologist. While
Hayden admitted that Bakke's MCAT scores were higher (Bakke's MCAT quantitative
score was in the 94 percentile while Chavis' was in the 24 range and Bakke's
science score was in the 97 percentile. Chavis' was in the 35 percentile
range), he noted that Dr. Chavis was ...providing primary care to
poor women [in a mostly black community]...Bakke's scores were higher,"
he admitted, "but who made the most of his medical school education?
From whom did California taxpayers benefit more?"
Just days after Teddy Kennedy sang the praises
of Dr. Peter Chavis, the doctor performed a liposuction on Yolanda Mukhalian.
While Chavis was trained in obstetrics, his revenues increasingly came
from abortions and doing liposuctions--which he was neither trained nor
qualified to do. Chavis advanced training in liposuction, according
to Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby in an August 14, 1997 article, came
from a four day seminar at the Liposuction Institute of Beverly Hills--a
course Chavis did not even finish. He attended classes for two of the
four days. I expect the two days Chavis missed were the days in which
the actual procedure was taught--and the need for the physician to follow-up
with the patient were stressed.
In the case of Mukhalian, problems resulted
immediately. According to court documents secured by Jacoby for his Globe
article, ...Mukhalians surgery left her vomiting, sweating,
and urinating helplessly as, in the courts words, blood gushed
down her pantleg...She lay there bleeding for 40 hours, during which
Chavis provided virtually no supervision or medical care. She returned
to his office on May 14, still bleeding and in pain. He prescribed heat
packs and a massage. Two days later, she was worse--still bleeding, in
extreme pain, and growing delirious. He didnt return her calls.
Nor did he examine her when she returned once more on May 17. By June
8 Mukhalian was in St. Francis Hospital with a severe abdominal infection.
She was badly scarred and had lost 70% of her blood. By some miracle,
Jacoby concluded, she survived.
When the Mukhalian incident occurred, Chavis should have at least thought,
I may have missed something important in the two days of liposuction
training I decided I didnt need... and, in thanking his lucky
stars that this patient survived his botched efforts at cosmetic surgery,
postponed any more liposuctions until he actually learned what he was
doing, Chavis scheduled another liposuction. His patients name this
time was Valerie Lawrence. Read the preceding paragraph and substitute
Lawrences name for Mukhalians and you have a fairly accurate
picture of what happened during that procedure. Chavis luck--and
the luck of his next patient, Tammaria Cotton--ran out on June 22. Cottons
blood pressure plummeted and she complained of difficulty breathing,
Jacoby wrote. If you can talk, Chavis reportedly told
her, you can breathe. As her frightened husband watched, reddish
fluid leaked from her body for hours, pooling on the floor. But
instead of administering emergency treatment, Chavis vanished. By early
evening, Cotton was in cardiac arrest. She died en route to the hospital.
(Affirmative Action Can Be Fatal; Boston Globe; Jeff Jacoby; August 14,
1997 © Boston Globe.)
Mistakes happen. But, tragically, incompetence
comes from more than simply error. Incompetence begins with arrogance.
In the case of Dr. Peter Chavis, he was trained as an obstetrician, not
a general surgeon. A four day course in liposuction in which half the
course was skipped certainly does not qualify even a board certified obstetrician
to perform cosmetic surgery that entails removing large amounts of fatty
tissue from the bodies of his patients without being trained to anticipate
or handle the potential risks from hemorrhaging--even if nothing else
goes wrong. It is unclear how many liposuctions Chavis performed, but
eight of his liposuction patients sued him for malpractice.
Can Dr. Chavis incompetence be attributed
to the fact that his training was the result of racial preferences? Due
to hindsight, it is safe to assume that was the case with this particular
physician. Scholastically, Peter Chavis did not qualify for medical school.
There was a real likelihood that Chavis, and other scholastic under-achiever
affirmative action candidates, would not be able to assimilate what they
needed to know to become adequate physicians. That is why, after all,
standards of acceptance are established by universities and
colleges in weighing the eligibility of candidates for particular vocations--such
as medicine--where incompetence can have fatal consequences.
In the university level educational system
there is supposed to be a failsafe mechanism that weeds out incompetency
by identifying mediocre medical students, law students and, yes, even
teaching students--and eliminates them by dropping them from the classroom
rosters when they fail. However, those who enter Americas colleges
and universities through diversity programs are imputed to have sufficient
intelligence to graduate. They are not dropped when they fail because
they are not allowed to fail.
Thus, the flaw in affirmative action. Diversity
programs foist mediocrity on a society that demands excellence from those
who rise to the pinnacle. More than anything else, this is why conservative
America roils against affirmative action programs when people like Jayson
Blair and Peter Chavis fail. Diversity programs do not demand a price
from its recipients--it demands that price from the rest of us. Jeff Jacoby
noted in the conclusion of his August 14, 1997 Boston Globe article that
a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA] reported
that 88% of the white medical graduates pass their medical board exams
but only 49% of the black students do. The article concluded that the
disparity was ...caused almost entirely by lower admission standards:
minority students admitted without regard to race rarely fail[ed].
(Affirmative Action Can Be Fatal; Boston Globe; Jeff Jacoby; August 14,
1997 © Boston Globe.) Thats because minority students who do
not gain entrance through diversity programs, like their white counterparts,
must strive for excellence and compete with sweat equity, not imputed
In the early 1970s, Dr. Bernard Davis of
the Harvard Medical School warned the medical community--and the politicians
who were eagerly promoting affirmative action as a compassionate way to
create more minority physicians without regard for the fact that placing
scalpels in the hands of incompetent physicians, Dr. Davis argued very
passionately that "...it [is] cruel to abandon standards and allow
trusting patients to pay for our irresponsibility." Davis was denounced
by his peers--and by the media--as a racist. The University of California
placed a scalpel in Dr. Chavis' hand and Tammaria Cotton died on June
22, 1996 because of their decision because they allowed an incompetent
medical student to graduate. In 1998 the Medical Board of the State of
California permanently revoked Dr. Chavis license for gross negligence,
incompetence and negligent acts. Chavis was accused of mistreating eight
of his maternity patients by offering to help them lose weight after they
delivered their babies.
If the liberal do-gooders want to impute
intelligence on substandard reporters, that's fine. They own their newspapers.
If they don't mind the circulation dips from inferior, false or distorted
reporting, it's their business--and their money--that is lost. America
has awakened to the fact that the liberal media is incompetent anyway,
so no one will be hurt or killed by that incompetence. However, its an
entirely different scenario when we place a scalpel in the hands of an
incompetent physician in our rush to create minority opportunities. Why?
Because in doing so, we deny those minorities the right to compete like
the rest of us.
It is, after all, competition that makes
us good at what we do and, competition combined with our own sweat equity
makes us better than those with whom we compete.
is blatantly unfair, however, is when industrialists and billionaire business
tycoons are allowed to bribe politicians with thousands upon thousands of
dollars in "campaign funds" (that are actually bribes for specific
legislative action) that result in Congress enacting laws that protect industrial
and financial cartels by making it impossible for independent entrepreneurs