‘USA Today’ Explains Kelley Flap

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By: E&P Staff

In comments e-mailed to USA Today late Monday, star foreign correspondent Jack Kelley, who resigned last week, said he still stands behind his work. “Every story published under my byline has been accurate based on what I saw, the interviews conducted and the details available at the time,” Kelley wrote.

But in an extraordinary and lengthy statement published Tuesday, USA Today editor Karen Jurgensen declared the newspaper decided to offer an account of its recent investigation “because Kelley made it public and because some published accounts have contained inaccurate information.”

Still the question lingers: Did Kelley embellish or make up some of his reports?

“Given Jack’s actions, obviously it’s hard to have confidence in his work,” said Executive Editor Brian Gallagher, who oversaw the paper’s probe of Kelley’s work.

He said that in the aftermath of the Jayson Blair scandel, involving fabrications at The New York Times, Gallagher sent an e-mail to staff on May 14, calling on anyone with concerns about the accuracy of stories in USA Today to come forward.

Around this time, Gallagher received an anonymous note, suggesting some of Kelley’s stories might have been invented or exaggerated.

In his e-mail yesterday, Kelley said the anonymous note was the result of “professional jealousy.” But Gallagher pointed out that a staffer came forward with concerns about a Kelley story from Belgrade. When Kelley could not find a source to confirm the story, he arranged for a woman to pose as a translator.

By Nov. 11, according to USA Today, “Kelley’s cooperation with the investigation ended” after he hired a lawyer. In mid-December, Kelley confessed to the publisher of his paper, according to USA Today, regarding the translator ruse.

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