The Notorious Jayson Blair Enters the No Spin Zone

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, March 10, 2004.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the "Follow-Up" segment tonight, the saga of Jayson Blair (search).  The former "New York Times" reporter resigned after some of his stories were found to have been plagiarized and fabricated.  The entire incident caused a huge scandal at the "Times" -- you know all this -- which remains America's most powerful newspaper, even though its editor, Howell Raines (search), was forced out because of the Blair situation.

With us now is the aforementioned Jayson Blair, the author of the new book "Burning Down My Master's House: My Life at 'The New York Times'."

You know, this is going to make you feel good, I think.  I don't care what you did.  You don't have to apologize to me or anybody else on this program.  That's between you and "The New York Times" and the people who read that newspaper.  I don't care what you did.  I don't care if you took drugs.  I don't care if you're bipolar.  I don't care.

What I do care about, though, is the nation's most powerful and influential newspaper and what is happening over there.  As you know, we have issues with "The New York Times."


O'REILLY:  So let's walk through that.


O'REILLY:  How big did race play, in your opinion, in you getting the job at the "Times" and then doing your job at the "Times"?

BLAIR:  I ultimately do not know what role race played and me being hired, but I can talk a little bit about generally how they view those issues.

I'm sure you've read "Coloring the News" by Bill McGowan.  I'm sure you've heard Arthur Salzburger talk about how diversity is a priority at "The New York Times."  A lot of African-American and minority candidates often, you know, are brought in through these programs.

Arguments have been made that we, you know, are not necessarily as prepared as other white reporters at the "Times" and it affects our news coverage.  I know, in my personal case, you know, my credentials beat out white, black, green, blue, and...

O'REILLY:  All right.  So getting hired, you felt you had the stuff?

BLAIR:  Felt I had the stuff.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Once you're in there and you get in trouble, some guys didn't like you, wrote letters, and...

BLAIR:  Well -- yes.


BLAIR:  It's a mixed bag...

O'REILLY:  Go ahead.

BLAIR:  ... because you have the affirmative action side, you have the people who push affirmative action, who see me as a pawn in their game to prove that, you know, I'm the great black hope, and they're not really paying attention to me and they're pushing me as a pawn, and then you have the people who are upset about affirmative action, and there's this sort of white...

O'REILLY:  They're trying to get you.

BLAIR:  ... understandable white backlash from affirmative action.

O'REILLY:  I get it.  OK.

BLAIR:  They're trying to get me, which prevents me and them from really doing a good job of doing our jobs, and that's fairly...

O'REILLY:  All right, but who won?  See, look, if I was at "The New York Times" and I did what you did, I don't think they would have given me the rope they gave you.

BLAIR:  Right.

O'REILLY:  Am I right or wrong?

BLAIR:  You know, there's an argument to be made.  I don't ultimately know, but, you know, I don't believe I necessarily would have been given the same amount of rope.

O'REILLY:  Because reading your book -- and I read it last night -- they gave you a lot of rope over there.

BLAIR:  No, they did give me a lot of rope.

O'REILLY:  If you worked for me, I would have bounced you out of there much...

BLAIR:  No, I'll be the first to say they gave me a lot of rope.

O'REILLY:  Now did they do that because they feared you, did they fear confronting you, because it was politically incorrect to call you on the carpet?

BLAIR:  Well, there's certainly -- Jon Landman (search), the Metro editor of "The New York Times," talks about how he had concerns and that he was afraid to take it to management because he would be viewed as a racist.  I don't think that's necessarily fair that he was put in a position where he felt...

O'REILLY:  Do you believe that Landman's...

BLAIR:  ... in that environment...

O'REILLY:  ... Landman's sentiment was reality?

BLAIR:  I mean I feel that John did things that, you know,...

O'REILLY:  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Landman didn't like you.  He thought you were a -- you know...

BLAIR:  Smug.  Whatever.

O'REILLY:  He didn't like you, all right, but he was afraid to tell Howell Raines and the crew...

BLAIR:  Bottom line...

O'REILLY:  Right.

BLAIR:  ... because, at least according to John's version of events...

O'REILLY:  He didn't want to be branded a racist.

BLAIR:  Exactly.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Is that true?  I mean would he have been branded a racist?

BLAIR:  He was already branded a racist.

O'REILLY:  He was already branded a racist?

BLAIR:  Right.  Yes.


BLAIR:  And he would have been.  Not for good reason.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Because he was tough on everybody?

BLAIR:  He was tough on a lot of people.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Because I'm a racist every day by somebody or other.

BLAIR:  Well, Tavis Smiley called me a racist a couple of days, too, so...

O'REILLY:  All right.  Well, whatever.  All right.  So...

BLAIR:  I'm in there with you, Bill.

O'REILLY:  You are in there, and they're afraid to really supervise you the way you should be supervised because somebody might say...

BLAIR:  Which is not doing me a favor.

O'REILLY:  Right, obviously.

BLAIR:  Right.

O'REILLY:  All right.  What you needed was to get slapped around and slapped around hard very early on.  So you say that the editor Howell Raines at the time, OK, quoted, "believed as I did in social change."

BLAIR:  Right.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Now...

BLAIR:  And now I don't mean that as a euphemism for liberal ideas of...

O'REILLY:  I -- but you don't say what social change.

BLAIR:  Right.

O'REILLY:  What did this guy believe in?

BLAIR:  Well, one of the problems -- and I don't necessarily agree with this notion -- was Howell's reign at the "Times" was he -- you know, I believe that "The New York Times" newsroom does have a social change agenda, and it's very liberal, it's certainly anti-conservative.

You could make the argument that it's a pro-liberal, anti-conservative social change agenda, and Howell didn't just push it, but he made it obvious.  It's normally more subtle and more hidden and...

O'REILLY:  OK.  So they wanted...

BLAIR:  ... masked and cloaked.

O'REILLY:  So they wanted a new society, more secular society, more liberal society.  Is that fair to say?

BLAIR:  That is fair to say.

O'REILLY:  And if you didn't buy into that, what would happen?

BLAIR:  I can't think of anyone there who didn't buy into that.

O'REILLY:  All of them -- all right.  Let me give you...

BLAIR:  People like John who were neo-conservatives...

O'REILLY:  ... a real simple question.

BLAIR:  All right.  Go.

O'REILLY:  If you walk into the newsroom and you said that "The O'Reilly Factor" is my favorite program, I love that O'Reilly guy...

BLAIR:  Well, look at what...

O'REILLY:  ... what would happen to you if you were a "New York Times" reporter?

BLAIR:  I'd be laughed out of the newsroom.  I mean, people would brand me as a neo-con, and, you know, they'd stop talking to me.  They would...

O'REILLY:  Really?

BLAIR:  It would hurt my stories.  People would say that I -- you know, there are a handful of people who have conservative...

O'REILLY:  That's right.

BLAIR:  John Tierney.

O'REILLY:  Yes, they've got a couple of token -- Safire and these guys.

BLAIR:  Right.  But they're outcasts.

O'REILLY:  All right.

BLAIR:  They're outcasts inside the...

O'REILLY:  So the prevailing wisdom inside the nation's most powerful newspaper, all right, is...

BLAIR:  It's not open to middle America, let's put it that way, Bill.

O'REILLY:  Right.  It's a very sharp agenda that they push, not only in their editorial pages, but in their news pages.

BLAIR:  Unfortunately yes.

O'REILLY:  OK.  And if you don't tow that line...

BLAIR:  And that hurts all of us.

O'REILLY:  ... then your career at the "Times" is hurt?

BLAIR:  Yes, yes.

O'REILLY:  Are you telling me the truth, because they're going to say this guy lies -- this guy Blair lies about everything.  He's trying to get us.

BLAIR:  Look, Bill, you know, the first step for me -- you know, I lived a life of lies, I lived a double life.  The first step for me in changing on the in -- I mean on the outside is changing on the inside, and that means coming clean.  I'm telling...

O'REILLY:  So you're telling me the truth.

BLAIR:  ... you the truth.  I mean, Bill, I am liberal to moderate personally.  It does nothing for my political views to lay this point out, but it is the truth...


BLAIR:  ... and it's the truth I outline in the book, too.

O'REILLY:  Why does the publisher and all of -- why do they tolerate this kind of a -- you know, "The New York Times" has a proud tradition -- I mean has a proud tradition...

BLAIR:  I mean...

O'REILLY:  .., and now it has become an ideological hack.  Why do they tolerate it?

BLAIR:  Well, I mean I think that the new publisher -- there's a book being done right now about the years -- by Bill McGowan (search) who wrote, "Coloring the News" (search) about the years of Arthur Salzberger, Jr., as the publisher of the paper, and he has a liberal agenda that he wants to push, and...

O'REILLY:  So it comes right down from the top.

BLAIR:  ... and he thinks the fact that it's -- the newspaper is respected by so many other media outlets, it doesn't matter what they print, they have the Gothic title.

O'REILLY:  All right.  You off the drugs now?

BLAIR:  Yes.  Clean and sober.

O'REILLY:  Are you going to stay off the drugs or what?

BLAIR:  Yes.  I'm going to try one day at a time.

O'REILLY:  Because that was your -- that's what did you in, right?

BLAIR:  That was -- I mean the drugs and then also the manic depression, but, ultimately, I need to live a clean life and an honest life.

O'REILLY:  Yes, but the manic depression you could have dealt with a shrink or...

BLAIR:  Right.

O'REILLY:  ... something like that.

BLAIR:  Exactly right.

O'REILLY:  Once you start with the crack and the cocaine, you're done.

BLAIR:  Which is another point that's worth bringing up.  You know, it's -- there -- it's very hard when you're in an amoral place.  I heard you on the segment before talking about how "The New York Times" had run a story about Ludacris and, hey, it's OK to do crack...

O'REILLY:  Yes, they loved him.

BLAIR:  ... but they attacked Mel Gibson.

O'REILLY:  Right.

BLAIR:  I've worked in a very sort of much more moral environment, and I'm in a much more moral environment and it's...

O'REILLY:  All right.

BLAIR:  ... 12-step.

O'REILLY:  The book is "Burning Down My Master's House: My Life at 'The New York Times'."

Jayson Blair, we appreciate you coming in.

BLAIR:  Thanks, Bill.

O'REILLY:  All right.

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