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Jewish World Review July 12, 2000 / 9 Tamuz, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Consumer Reports

Jacoby's raw deal -- THE LIBERAL THOUGHT POLICE have silenced another dissenting voice. The Boston Globe has cleansed itself from the filthy rags of right wing opinion by canning its only conservative columnist, Jeff Jacoby.

Am I exaggerating by saying he was "canned"? Not a bit. The Globe euphemistically referred to Jacoby's firing as a four-month suspension, after which there would be a "serious rethink" of the "kind of column" he writes. A serious rethink? What kind of psychobabble is that?

Jacoby's stated infraction was "serious journalistic misconduct" regarding his July 3 column on the fate of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. As bad as it sounds "serious journalistic misconduct" is probably euphemistic, too. The Globe complained that "the structure and content of (Jacoby's) column were not entirely original." It sounds like they wanted to nab him for plagiarism but couldn't marshal the proof, so they went with the lesser-included non-offense of "serious journalistic misconduct."

In an e-mail to friends Jacoby described the process by which he researched and wrote the piece. He said he had before him three pieces, by Paul Harvey, Rush Limbaugh (Jr.) and a reader's e-mail. He then set about to verify the accuracy of the piece through independent research.

Jacoby said it never occurred to him to mention that he was "far from the first to write about the fates of the Declaration's signers." Globe officials told Jacoby that had he added such a disclosure his "suspension" could have been averted. I'm sorry, but that dog just won't hunt. Jacoby offered to include such a statement in his next column but permission was denied. The writing was already on the wall -- in fact it may be that they were looking for an excuse.

The Globe insists that its own credibility was at stake. Maybe so, but not the kind of credibility you might be thinking about. We are not talking about credibility in the sense that Webster's would define it: "The capacity of being believed." No, we are talking about the Globe's pristine reputation among such arbiters of political correctness as, say, liberal actor, Alec Baldwin. I mean, what would he think of the Globe for permitting Jacoby to continue contaminating its pages? What about the arts-and-croissants coteries in Boston and New York? Or, Boston's favorite liberal factory, Harvard?

Instead of fretting about their own "credibility" they should be thinking about their employee, Jeff Jacoby. I thought liberals were champions of the little guy. In the process of preserving their "credibility" the Globe dealt a potentially devastating blow to Jacoby's credibility. I say "potentially" because I am confident that this superlative columnist, no thanks to the Globe, will go on to bigger and better things.

As others have accurately observed -- I want to make sure I include that disclosure so as not to incur the indignation of the Globe -- Jacoby's sin was neither plagiarism nor serious journalistic misconduct, but being a highly effective conservative columnist. That just won't do.

Isn't it fitting that the column the Globe conveniently used to dispatch Jacoby involved subject matter that is absolutely intolerable to the politically correct, history revisionist crowd. Who do conservatives think they are trying to glorify this evil nation's past with the "Patriot" movie and these written tributes to our founders?

I am convinced that Jeff Jacoby is a man of integrity who did not do anything improper in this case. I take him at his word that he "assumed that all of the material in (his) column was in the public domain." As a columnist I can tell you that it's not difficult to inadvertently borrow material or phrases sometimes. A few months ago I read a column by Lowell Ponte at that included the phrase, "Go left, young man." Not long after that I subconsciously co-opted that line for the title to a column. When Lowell graciously pointed it out to me I was embarrassed, but he knew it was accidental.

I am gratified that many have come to Jacoby's defense, including my brother Rush, Binyamin Jolkovsky of Jewish World Review, David Horowitz and Matt Drudge. Though it's painful for some to accept, free speech applies to everyone.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.



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