Friday, November 2, 2007

Utah Voucher Advocate And Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne Ignores NAACP Complaint, Claims His Remarks "Edited And Inverted" On YouTube Video

The founder and chief of Internet retailer says his previous controversial remarks about minorities and education weren't just taken out of context, but were also edited and "inverted" on a videotape playing on Patrick Byrne offered a longer video clip from the debate more than two weeks ago in Provo as evidence. Full story posted on KSL Channel 5 in Salt Lake.

The second clip still has him saying Utah minorities who don't graduate from high school might as well be "burned or thrown away". However, the second clip is longer and presents more of the context surrounding the remarks. Byrne continues to reject calls from the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP for an apology.

As previously reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, the controversy first surfaced early in October when Byrne was part of a school voucher debate in Provo. He was talking about the failure of public schools when it comes to the graduation rate of minority students, and the critical link between education and success in life, when he made the controversial comment. A clip of the debate with Byrne's comment was posted on the Web site YouTube.

Here are the precise words spoken by Patrick Byrne, from the video:

"You may as well burn those kids, that's the end of their life, that's the end of their ability to achieve in this society. If they do not get a high school education, you might as well throw those kids away".

Jeanetta Williams, NAACP Salt Lake branch president, was upset because she felt that Byrne was singling out minority kids when there are also white students who do not graduate from high school. "It's saying to them, 'If you can not achieve . . . then you have no worth in society," Williams later said in an interview.

Williams further stated that there are many people who don't have a high school diploma who take up a trade and support their families. But here's where she goes over the top - she also said the word "burn" has a negative historical perspective when she thinks of blacks who were lynched for the color of their skin. "If he misspoke about not meaning what he said . . . then he shouldn't have any hindrances in making a public apology," she said.

On, Patrick Byrne gave a statement explaining what he meant:

"Recently, video-taped comments I made in a school voucher debate setting were edited and posted online. Subsequently, some journalists erroneously claimed that I dismissed these statements as having been taken out of context. This assertion is false. In fact, my claim is far stronger: the clip is a lie, because it inverted what I actually said, which is far worse than simply being 'taken out of context'.

"The NAACP is not, by its nature, a research organization, so their having misconstrued the situation is regrettable but understandable. However, it was irresponsible for journalists to take these claims at face value. It is hard to believe, but shoddy reporting still manages to disappoint me.

"Because reverberations of the original reporting continue to be felt, and because essentially all who learn the facts are, thankfully, offering me their overwhelming support, I thought it might interest a wider audience to see the complete statement for which I was attacked:
Second YouTube video.

"Another recent print report further clarifies my record on race and education issues":
See this Deseret News article.

Here's the first YouTube video, chopped down to 17 seconds, highlighting Byrne's controversial remark without any surrounding context:

Here's the second YouTube video, approximately 1:40 in length, showing more of the context.

Both videos contain the same identical remark, so although the first video was "edited", it was hardly "inverted". However, the motive of those who posted the first video must be called into question. Their intent was obviously to wrongfully discredit Byrne. The battle over the Voucher Initiative has become a bare knuckled fight with both sides using unethical tactics.

However, the reaction of the Salt Lake NAACP is indicative of the level of suspicion, hysteria, and paranoia that exists within so much of the black community. If even a semi-civilized black woman like Jeanetta Williams thinks that Patrick Byrne literally wants to "burn" black kids, it makes me want to tear up the Civil Rights Act of 1964. How can we even live in the same society with people who think like that? These are the same idiots who believed that the CIA was selling crack in L.A. during the 1980s to fund the Contra War in Nicaragua. Yes, I know that there are civilized blacks who don't fall for that rubbish - problem is, there's just not enough of them.

Patrick Byrne is the Chairman and CEO of Inc, an online "closeout" retailer offering discount, brand-name merchandise for sale over the Internet. The company offers its customers an opportunity to shop for bargains conveniently, while offering its suppliers an alternative inventory liquidation distribution channel., headquartered in Salt Lake City, is a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ Global Market System and can be found online at Byrne and his family have almost single-handedly funded a public campaign in support of private school vouchers. That campaign resulted in Utah HB 148, which is going before Utah voters for approval in the upcoming November 6th election.

The Utah Voucher Initiative is called Citizen's Referendum Number 1. Visit the Utah Elections website to find out more about it, including the text of the referendum and official arguments for and against it.

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