The founder and chief of Internet retailer Overstock.com recently got into hot water with controversial remarks he made about minorities and education but he now claims they weren’t just taken out of context.
Patrick Byrne says in a new statement that his remarks were edited and “inverted” on a videotape playing on YouTube.com.
Byrne had posted a longer video clip from a school voucher debate that took place more than two weeks ago in Provo. He had talked about the failure of public schools when it comes to the graduation rate of minority students, and the critical link between education and success in life. That clip still has him saying Utah minorities who don’t graduate from high school “might as well be burned or thrown away.”
Local NAACP leaders have demanded an apology, but Byrne says the clip they saw is a lie.
“It’s worse than a cheap shot. It’s a lie. Somebody is trying to create the implication I said the exact opposite of what I said in that answer,” Byrne told The Salt Lake Tribune.
However, Jeanetta Williams, NAACP Salt Lake branch president, said it was not fair to single out minority kids when there are White students who also do not graduate from high school. Besides, the word “burn” l has a negative historical connotation for Blacks.
“If he misspoke about not meaning what he said . . . then he shouldn’t have any hindrances in making a public apology,” she added.
Byrne argued that the Utah chapter has not even seen the full tape.
“I’m saying we should not be throwing out kids. We should not be discarding kids. I’m saying the current system does,” Byrne said. “Forty-two percent of minority kids in Utah don’t graduate. That is a calamity. The people who are saying, ‘That’s OK, let’s not change the system,’ they are saying we might as well throw out those kids. Those kids don’t matter.”
Byrne has said he has seen minority parents make extraordinary sacrifices to pay tuition for their children to attend private school.
“You meet these mothers, Hispanic and African American mothers, they work two jobs, they scrub toilets on the weekend at Taco Bell . . . because they know the only way to break the cycle is to get their kid educated,” Byrne said.
Vouchers, he said, would make it easier for those families. According to The Deseret Morning News, Byrne has given the pro-voucher campaign in Utah more than $3 million.
He said all other domestic issues are in truth just derivatives of education.
“There is such an unfair difference in education achievement in America today,” he told The News in an interview last week. “If we can’t fix this, we are just rearranging furniture on the Titanic. But if we can fix this, a lot of pernicious ills of society would wash out over a generation.”
On Overstock.com, his biography details other efforts to “curtail injustice” such as combating global poverty, naked short selling on Wall Street (short changing small companies for profit) and collusion among hedge funds, as well as exposing corruption in business journalism.
–Diverse Online staff
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com