Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review July 16, 2000 / 13 Tamuz, 5760

BOSTON GLOBE! -- THE BOSTON GLOBE isn't finished lynching Jeff Jacoby. Reeling from the national outcry that greeted the brutal punishment of its talented conservative columnist on July 8, the Globe on Monday fired back with a shameful column declaring: "Jacoby is lucky he wasn't fired."

In a column appearing on the same Op-Ed page that until last week was distinguished by Jeff's writing, the Globe's ombudsman accuses the unjustly suspended columnist of plagiarism -- the slimiest charge that it is possible to hurl at an honest journalist.

And make no mistake, Jeff is an honest journalist. In 13 years of writing editorials and opinion columns, his good name has never been sullied with an ethics charge. He acquired the reputation of a principled commentator and gifted writer the old-fashioned way: He earned it. Though readers might disagree with a given column, they always knew that Jeff meant every word -- and that every word was his. None of his regular readers, and he has many thousands of them, was surprised when in 1999 he was named the first recipient of the Breindel Prize, the most prestigious award in the field of opinion journalism.

Indeed, Jeff was one of the class acts at The Boston Globe. But now comes Jack Thomas, the Globe's ombudsman, on a search-and-destroy mission to destroy Jeff's professional reputation. It isn't enough for Thomas that the Globe cut off Jeff's livelihood for four months and effectively invited him to resign. Thomas is apparently under orders to make sure that Jeff never works in journalism again. "Whether by malice or chance," he has the audacity to write, "Jacoby is guilty of plagiarism."

That is a Class A smear of the most despicable sort, and may very well constitute libel. (Is the Globe stupid as well as cruel?) For six-and-a-half years, Jeff has been the most consistently original, insightful, and provocative columnist at the Globe. He has delivered unique and memorable commentary, beautifully written columns that shape debates and change minds.

Remember his 80 reasons not to re-elect Bill Clinton? His powerful column on Jane Fonda's treachery in Vietnam? His generous and moving piece on the Southern Baptists and the Jews? His exceptionally touching annual letter to his son, Caleb? His hard-hitting columns on Al Gore ... on the gun-control lobby ... on racial preferences ... on media bias? His annual roundup of liberal "hate speech"?

Week in, week out, Jeff has given his readers in every corner of America food for thought they couldn't find anywhere else. And he has done it while articulating the moral values of an observant Jew. The only thing he is "guilty" of is refusing to bow down before the P.C. idols that are worshipped in newsrooms like The Boston Globe's. That is the reason he is now being savaged.

The Boston Globe claims that the ombudsman speaks only for himself -- that his views are not necessarily the views of the paper's editors and publisher. If so, why didn't the Globe repudiate Jack Thomas's outrageous column at once? It was bad enough that Jeff was slammed with a four-month suspension for a minor lapse (in his stirring column on the signers of the Declaration of Independence, he failed to note that he was relating a tale that had been told many times before). He does not deserve to be slandered in the very pages of the paper he did so much to elevate.

The ombudsman attack piece dismisses the coast-to-coast uproar that followed news of Jeff's suspension as "the result of an ambitious campaign by the legitimate conservative movement, and also by the radical right in America." This is in keeping with a snide remark he made to a Globe reporter last week. In a July 13 story, Thomas admitted that the news of Jeff's mistreatment had unleashed a flood of protests, "but he says more than 90 percent of those e-mails originate from states outside the Globe's circulation area and are 'steeped in right-wing rhetoric ....' " Get it? If you're not a Cambridge liberal, your opinion doesn't count.

Support for Jeff doesn't only come from conservative circles -- not by a long shot. He has been ardently and skillfully defended by Dan Kennedy, media critic of The Boston Phoenix, a sharply left-of-center "alternative" weekly. "Cruel and Unusual," the Phoenix headlined its story on Jeff's savage punishment. Writes Kennedy: "Jacoby has been good for the Globe... His twice-weekly column is well researched and well written, one of the better reads on an often dreary page -- and never mind that I rarely agree with him.... Overall, the guy is a major asset. Yet his reward, say some sources, has been to be treated like a pariah."

Especially by people like the ombudsman, who has gone after Jeff with unusual viciousness before. (Click here here for John Leo's "What Jacoby had to deal with!" )

Shame on Jack Thomas. Shame on the Boston Globe. Shame on the New York Times Co., the Globe's parent company. And shame on any of us who simply look the other way when a decent man is lynched. What has been done to Jeff Jacoby should make every one of us livid. Jeff brought nothing but credit and respect to The Globe. Now the Globe is repaying him with disgrace and character assassination.

Speak out. Call your local newspaper and ask for an editorial supporting Jeff. Contact talk-radio stations and tell them you want to talk about this. It is especially important to call The New York Times Co. at (212) 556-1981. Urge that The Globe be made to rescind Jeff's suspension. To send a letter to the editor about the ombudsman's shocking column, send a fax to 617-929-2098 or click here to send your letter via e-mail. Remember to keep your communications CIVIL -- they have more impact that way.

Jeff's voice is too valuable to be silenced. Please speak out for his sake -- and for ours.

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky,
Editor in Chief,


An Open Letter From Jeff Jacoby To His Friends

John Leo: What Jacoby had to deal With

Lawrence Henry: For Jeff Jacoby, a Window Closes, a Door Opens


© 2000, JWR