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Times' Unlikely Savior: Jayson Blair

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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JOB WELL DONE Miller, Blair (inset) Everyone knows that Jayson Blair did a lot of harm to the New York Times's reputation, but he also did a bit of unintentional good. Testimony given yesterday in the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby revealed how the turmoil generated by the exposure of Blair's serial fabrications in 2003 may have prevented the Times from getting exploited as a tool of the White House and thereby getting drawn deeper into the Valerie Plame affair.

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Former Times journo Judith Miller took the stand yesterday to describe her conversations with Libby, including the ones in which the former vice-presidential aide disclosed that Plame was a CIA officer. (Miller, you'll recall, spent 85 days in jail to protect Libby's identity before she declared herself released from her pledge of confidentiality.) According to a live blog of the proceedings, Miller, during questioning by defense attorneys, said she'd passed the Plame tip along to then-Washington bureau chief Jill Abramson, recommending that someone be assigned to pursue it. But Abramson paid the suggestion little heed—apparently because she was distracted by the Blair scandal, which would shortly force the resignations of executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd.

Too bad Blair wasn't busted sooner—maybe he could have derailed Miller's phony WMD reporting, too.

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