‘You, sir, are a short-sighted idiot’

I wrote a story for National Review this week in which I looked into the claims — heard virtually everywhere in the press — that John McCainJohn Sidney McCainChuck Todd's 'MTP Daily' moves time slots, Nicolle Wallace expands to two hours Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Asian American voters could make a difference in 2020 MORE’s “sex education” ad is a bald-faced lie.

I don’t have room to go into the details here, but I read the Illinois state legislation involved, looked at the arguments in its favor at the time of its introduction and talked to one of its sponsors (four other sponsors successfully resisted or ignored my appeals for comment). I came away with the conclusion that the widely derided McCain ad was, in fact, accurate.

Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Tuesday's primaries Obama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Red flags fly high, but Trump ignores them MORE had supported a bill that would have provided that sex-education classes, which were formerly offered to children in grades six through 12, be offered instead to students from kindergarten through grade 12. The classes could include topics like contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and sexual assault.


Shortly after my story appeared, I got a number of “thank you, thank you, thank you” e-mails from people who had read the bill themselves and were frustrated by press coverage.

But then, when the story got into wider circulation, the other side weighed in, and I found myself being showered with … affection.

“You’re a jackass,” wrote one reader.

“You are disgusting,” wrote another.

“Byron, you are a lying sack of s--t,” wrote a third.

Some were regular correspondents. A man who had sent me a note about a previous story said, “I wrote you before about getting a real job and journalistic integrity. Apparently you didn’t take my advice.”


It’s true. I didn’t take his advice. So this time, he tried a few words of encouragement: “Keep up the sh--ty work!”

Others found ugly motives in my examination of the sex-education bill. “Kudos!” wrote one reader. “You looked great at the KKK meeting last night!”

“Joseph Goebbels would be proud of you,” wrote another.

Many correspondents were concerned about my values. “I’m curious,” began one. “Are people like you born without a sense of honesty or decency — a genetic defect, so to speak — or do you learn it from your parents? Did your mother and father lie whenever it suited their purposes?”

Others were more straightforward. “You are ridiculous and immoral,” wrote one. “You, sir, are a short-sighted idiot,” wrote another. (I have to say I liked the “sir” part. It sounds like Keith Olbermann when he’s sternly addressing President Bush.)

It’s amazing how often people will write to berate you for not including some critical bit of information in a story — when that information was, in fact, included in the story.

I got a number of e-mails pointing out a section of the proposed legislation in Illinois that said, “all sex education courses that discuss sexual activity or behavior … be age and developmentally appropriate.”

“Why did you ignore this sentence?” one e-mailer angrily demanded. “Could it be that your desire to support Mr. McCain’s political ambitions supersedes your journalistic objectivity?”

I sent back a response pointing to the passage in my article in which I wrote, “The bill also specified that ‘all sex education courses that discuss sexual activity or behavior … be age and developmentally appropriate.’ ”

When I get these notes, I sometimes quickly begin a response, often starting with a few sharp words.

Then I delete them and begin, “Thank you for your note …”

So in this case, all I have to say is: I stand by my story.

But thank you for your notes.

York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week.  E-mail: byork@nationalreview.com