Richard Jewell will always stand up my mind is a prime example of how someone’s reputation can be damaged by a press bent on doing precisely that. Ed suggests (amazingly) that the New York Times got one right, here:
Richard A. Jewell, whose transformation from heroic security guard to Olympic bombing suspect and back again came to symbolize the excesses of law enforcement and the news media, died Wednesday at his home in Woodbury, Ga. He was 44. …The heavy-set Mr. Jewell, with a country drawl and a deferential manner, became an instant celebrity after a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in the early hours of July 27, 1996, at the midpoint of the Summer Games. The explosion, which propelled hundreds of nails through the darkness, killed one woman, injured 111 people and changed the mood of the Olympiad.
Only minutes earlier, Mr. Jewell, who was working a temporary job as a guard, had spotted the abandoned green knapsack that contained the bomb, called it to the attention of the police, and started moving visitors away from the area. He was praised for the quick thinking that presumably saved lives.
But three days later, he found himself identified in an article in The Atlanta Journal as the focus of police attention, leading to several searches of his apartment and surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by reporters who set upon him, he would later say, “like piranha on a bleeding cow.”
What had Jewell done to attract suspicion? Ironically, he had performed too well in his role as a security guard. He noticed the backpack by the bench and quickly determined that it could be a threat. After inadvertently changing the position of the backpack — which thwarted the bomber, whose shaped charge went up and not out — he started clearing people from the area as fast as he could before the bomb exploded. The nail-packed charge killed one woman, but if it hadn’t been for Jewell, many more would have been killed or injured.
Indeed. Obviously what we’re talking about here is somebody with heroic quality about him. At the risk of drawing too tight a comparison I will tell you that what happened to Mr. Jewell is one reason I get so very annoyed with the left and the press coming to precisely the wrong conclusions as regards our military. The results within what I will call “the first circle” are similar. (Picture circles in the pond after you toss a stone in) The ramifications of damaging the reputations of our troops, is far more reaching, of course. However, I don’t think there’s a better example of the press leaping to the wrong conclusion and damaging the reputation of the subject with almost a gleeful ignorance than the case of Richard Jewell.