NPR did a little eulogy for Richard Jewell:
Lets take a moment to remember a man who really was not a terrorist.
Richard Jewell died yesterday. He might have saved lives at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He was a security guard. He’s the man who discovered a green knapsack. He’s the man who ushered several people away before the bomb inside it exploded. It killed one person and injured 111 with flying nails. Jewell is also the man who initially became a suspect in the bombing.
[Richard Jewell’s voice] “I daresay there’s more people that know that I was accused of it and was a suspect, or called a suspect, than know I was the one that actually found the package, and that I was cleared.”
During 88 days as a suspect, Richard Jewell said he felt like a hunted animal about to be killed. And afterward he thanked one of the few people who stood by him from beginning to end — his mom.
When he died yesterday of unknown causes, Richard Jewell was 44 years old. He died at home, not in the prison cell where he might once have been expected to spend the rest of his life.
Listening to the above, as I did, you might wonder who hunted him down for those 88 hellish days. Southern police? The FBI? Well, that’s certainly part of the answer. The FBI was did a horrible thing by leaking Jewell’s identity to the press and it did investigate him very aggressively. (Incidentally, since the FBI leak that triggered the media frenzy happened on Janet Reno’s watch, you may find interesting Ann Coulter’s column reminiscencing about the Reno years.)
If you’re like me, though, you remember that the FBI wasn’t alone in making Jewell’s life miserable. Once the FBI wrongly got the ball rolling, the media ran with it, maligning and harassing for those 88 days, so much so that he sued several news outlets after he was cleared. I think Jewell would have appreciated this 30 second eulogy a bit more if it had properly identified the culprits who made his life Hell for 88 days and, perhaps, included a nice little apology for the media’s role in the horror that became his life.