We all knew it would happen. What we did not know is that it would happen so soon. We all knew he would try it. What we did not know is that he would be so utterly shameless.
Jayson Blair (search) wants to write a book. He wants to blame others, in both the New York Times (search) newsroom and the society at large, for the lies, evasions, distortions, frauds, fictions, fabrications, fairy tales, scams and plagiarisms with which he infected the Times in his years as an employee.
He wants a million-dollar advance on royalties. He wants to be an American success story, to be yet another denizen of the popular culture who snickers from the sidelines as a gullible public transforms his notoriety into fame.
Through his literary agent, or, as the pop psychologists would call him, his enabler, Blair has begun to circulate a proposal for a volume called Burning Down My Master's House.
The Washington Post's estimable media reporter, Howard Kurtz (search), writes that it is "a racially charged book proposal bristling with anger at The New York Times." Blair refers to the Times, Kurtz says, as "my tormentor, my other drug, my slavemaster."
Blair apparently admits to some wrongdoing in the book, saying he "really screwed up," among other things. "But the dominant motif," Kurtz tells us, "is one of anger — hurling unsubstantiated charges of racism at the paper and promising to reveal the Times's 'darkest secrets,' which [Blair] says, without offering evidence, involve drug parties and one editor's affair with an intern."
Kurtz, who apparently listened on the phone as someone read the proposal to him, quotes the would-be author as follows: "The more [lies and distortions] I got away with, the more I stretched, and it was not simple laziness. Each one I got away with felt like a '[expletive] you' to an institution that I had long ago lost any love for."
So far, in what seems an unexpected show of decency and good sense, the American publishing industry has reacted with indifference to Blair’s vestra culpa (search).
According to Reuters reporters Steve James and Siobhan Kennedy, "One publisher said she wouldn’t touch Blair's story with a 10-foot pole. Another said she'd be a sucker to pay $1 million for a book by Blair."
James and Kennedy also report that "one publishing expert, who requested anonymity," opines as follows: "[A] small right-wing publisher could be interested [in the book] for political reasons, to denigrate the liberal-leaning Times. But he said major publishers might shy away from offending the Times on whom they depend for reviews and advertising."
A literary agent who has long been a friend of mine concurs. And he further believes that if Blair does manage to find a publisher for his book, he will be paid but a fraction of the asking price, although a movie producer might well offer more.
And so it has come to this: Jayson Blair, one of the greatest liars in the annals of modern journalism, now expects publishers to believe that he will write the truth about his lies. Jayson Blair, who so deeply charred the structure of The New York Times, hopes to find a taker a screed called Burning Down My Master’s House.
It is time, it seems to me, for people to stop thinking of Blair as a former reporter and start thinking of him as a future mental patient.
Actually, it is time for people to stop thinking of him at all. It is time for the young man to slide into anonymity, a destination at which he will never truly arrive, but one that, at least to a degree, is necessary if he is ever to achieve a saner state of consciousness.
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch, which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.. ET/8 p.m. PT .