I was disappointed to read, in Timothy Egan’s column in the New York Times on 23 June 2018, that the head football coach at Washington State University, Mike Leach, “tweeted out a video of a 2014 speech by Barack Obama that was altered to make him sound like a one-world-government tyrant.” I sincerely hope that racism did not motivate the altered video or Mr. Leach’s tweet.
But, President Schulz, as any first-year graduate student of history would tell you, Mr. Leach failed to engage in adequate source criticism before blithely issuing his tweet. Perhaps, the need for such source criticism is beyond the understanding of the head football coach at Washington State? Did he simply tweet what he felt, accuracy be damned?
Worse, however, was Mr. Leach’s response after he was alerted to the fact that the video had been doctored. According to Mr. Egan, Mr. Leach simply responded, “Prove it.” As you certainly know, President Schulz, the burden of proving an allegation to be correct rests with the person first making the allegation. One sees this truism in court rooms every day. Moreover, because social progress rests upon acting upon facts, we usually assume that people occupying responsible positions do not blithely misrepresent the facts or deliberately lie — President Trump’s egregious distortions and lies notwithstanding.
But, worse still, when Mr. Leach was confronted with the truth of the doctored video, he asserted, “What is a fact?” Such a question by Mr. Leach is doubly damning. Not only does it suggest bad faith, it also suggests an impoverished education. Ever since Plato, fact as a basis for knowledge has been defined as “true belief justified.” Mr. Leach failed on the “justified” part. Was his failure willful, or mere stupidity?
Finally, Timothy Egan writes that Mr. Leach’s “university did not set the record straight. Washington State issued a meaningless statement backing its coach’s right to his personal opinions.” I suggest, President Schulz, that a more appropriate response would have been, “Washington State backs its coach’s right to his personal opinions, however ill-supported, repugnant and harmful they might be.”
Isn’t that the implication of your whitewash of Mike Leach’s mistake?
Walter Uhler | Philadelphia, PA