The Peril of an Unanointed Shield
- INTRODUCTION - TIME HAS A WAY OF TELLING
Yesterday (3/20/04), I found an interesting article in the USA Today weekend edition in the lobby of the Ramada Limited in Mobile. It told a story, in fact on the front page, about a journalist named Jack Kelley who had been employed by USA Today for ten years. He had written 720 stories over the course of a decade. In an extensive investigation of these stories, 100 of them have been found to be full of sweeping and substantial fabrications.
The evidence strongly contradicted Kelley's published accounts that he spent a night with Egyptian terrorists in 1997; that he met a vigilante Jewish settler named Avi Shapiro in 2001; that he watched a Pakistani student unfold a picture of the Sears tower and say, “This one is mine,” in 2001; that he visited a suspected terrorist crossing point on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2002; that he interviewed the daughter of an Iraqi general in 2003; or that he went on a high-speed hunt for Osama bin Laden in 2003.
Significant parts of one of Kelley’s most gripping stories, an eyewitness account of a suicide bombing that helped make him a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist, are untrue. Kelley told readers he saw the bomber. But the man he described could not have been the bomber.
But the story that got him into this mess was one from 2000. He used a snapshot he took of a Cuban hotel worker to authenticate a story he made up about a woman who died fleeing Cuba by boat. The woman in the photo neither fled by boat nor died, and a USA Today reporter located her this month. If Cuban authorities had learned she was the woman in the picture, she says, she could have lost her job and her chance to emigrate.
Now there are investigators within USA Today who are looking to see if one of their greatest writers did not frequently rely on embellishment and fabricated stories that arose somewhere in his own imagination. Kelley resigned in January 2004 after he admitted conspiring with a translator to mislead editors overseeing an inquiry into his work.
-What would cause a man to rely on such self-deception? Why would a man bargain away his talent and education on such a foolish idea?
Thomas Watson (An old Puritan) on Self-deception - A sinner is well conceited of himself while he dresses himself by the flattering mirror of presumption. But if he knew how loathsome and disfigured he was in God’s eye, he would abhor himself.