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High-Integrity Guys

The Chron is a depressingly poor big-city daily, as I note here frequently enough. But occasionally, even though I know how bad the rag is, it still manages to surprise me. And not in good way.

Take this feature, for example.

Wouldn't common sense suggest that a sympathetic business feature on the personal lives of three people most responsible for the (criminally fraudulent) debacle that was Enron MIGHT NOT be a great idea? Especially in the very city where most of the people affected by its collapse don't have River Oaks mansions and antique shops to retreat to. I mean, this is just common sense, right?

But here it is. The Chron, as usual, casting the criminals of the Enron debacle as sympathetic figures.

Jeffrey Skilling, you see, didn't want to take the Fifth Amendment before Congress because he strives to be a good role model for his children:

Even while chief executive officer at Enron, Skilling was known to attend as many of his children's activities as possible. Wednesday evenings tended to be off-limits because that's when he visited the kids.

His children are the reason, a friend said, that he was the only key Enron executive to testify before Congress in February, instead of taking the Fifth like Lay and Fastow.

"It was important for him that his kids see him testify and not be afraid," said the friend.

And it was probably also important to try to get over on the executives who DID take the Fifth by implicating them in his own testimony, hmm? He's a man of integrity, you see.

And Ken Lay's trying to get out of the house more:

They came late and left early at a dinner held for the United Way at the home of Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune. Last month, they attended a lecture by political analyst David Gergen at the home of former Mayor Bob Lanier, again coming in late and leaving early.

He remains active on the Greater Houston Partnership board and in a University of Houston advisory group, as well as on boards for other nonprofits and charities. At partnership meetings, Lay is fully engaged in discussions, said businessman Willie Alexander, a fellow board member.

"He's participating," Alexander said. "He's well-received. Everybody loves Ken. Ken has always been good to us and the city.

"Ken still has a lot to offer Houston. We still respect Ken. The man has a fantastic record with his community involvement."


And let's not forget the third crook, Andrew Fastow:

Fastow was an assistant coach of his son's Tadpole baseball team, has taught Hebrew at a synagogue and spends many weekends at the family's $288,000 vacation home in Galveston, just blocks from Lay's place.

He regularly takes his sons fishing on his 18-foot Boston Whaler, said Gary Praker, the caretaker of Fastow's Galveston home.

"He is a person of extraordinarily high integrity," said Bobby Lapin, a local lawyer and Fastow's friend. "The time he hasn't spent with his attorneys, he has spent with his family."

Lapin and Osadchey each described Fastow as a "mensch," Yiddish for a person of strong character.

Strong CHARACTER. EXTRAORDINARILY HIGH INTEGRITY. MENSCH! Even Tadpole baseball, for Christ's gawd's sake. Lots of people hurt by Enron probably feel better knowing that. It warms my heart. No wait, that was the Diedrich's latte.

And if all of that isn't unbelievable enough, the story actually concludes with Linda Lay MORALIZING:

She is furious about the way a clip from the Today interview has been used by TV news organizations. They routinely show her crying while a newsreader describes how she expressed concern over the possibility of personal bankruptcy.

She was not crying about that, she says, but about her husband's remorse that he couldn't save Enron. "It's immoral" for the clip to be used that way, she said.

Linda Lay, calling out television networks for immoral behavior! That's how the story concludes?!

Like I said, sometimes the Chron still manages to surprise even me. I honestly didn't think their Enron coverage could get any worse. But then they conclude a story with Linda Lay, moral authority. THAT one is going to be hard to top!

But I wouldn't bet against our Chron.

(07-09-02 Update) A couple of people rip the Chron and the "high-integrity guys" a new one in the letter section today. Well done.

[Posted at 20:22 CST on 07/08/02] [Link]

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