Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jose Antonio Vargas revealed Wednesday that he is an illegal immigrant in a lengthy confession published by the New York Times. The confession received a cool reception from his former employers. The Washington Post refused to print his story, and Vargas’ former editor at the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an agitated account of how he was “duped.”
Phil Bronstein, who hired Vargas to work at the Chronicle, wrote that Vargas “lied to me and everyone else he worked for, and that’s not kosher, especially in a profession where facts and, more elusively, the truth are considered valuable commodities.”
Bronstein expressed irritation at the deception and said that the reporter was an egotistical self-promoter. However, if the immigration debate is moved forward by the disclosure, Bronstein said that the lies may be forgivable.
The Washington Post, Vargas’ employer at the time that he won a Pulitzer Prize for contributing to coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre, was initially approached about publishing the story.
Carlos Lozada, the Post’s Outlook section editor, told The Huffington Post, “I worked on it for some weeks with the intention of possibly running it,” but that, “Ultimately, the decision was to not move forward with it.”
Kris Coratti, a spokeswoman for the Post, said, “We made a judgment not to run the piece,” but also that “we’re glad he found a place to share his story.”
Vargas wrote in his account that Peter Perl, the Post’s current assistant managing editor, kept the secret from other members of the staff. Coratti said that “what Peter did was wrong.”
Bernie Lunzer, president of the Newspaper Guild, told The Daily Caller, “I think what Vargas did was very helpful and took courage. I really have a lot of respect for him.”
Lunzer speculated that the Post declined to publish the story because editors “got nervous because he had been an employee there.”
“They’re claiming that he lied about his personal situation. I don’t know if he did lie to them or not. My guess is they’re just really very nervous because he had been an employee there,” Lunzer said. “But I think they should just recognize it for what it is, it’s an important news story. They really should have covered it.”
Vargas said that he made the announcement to influence the country’s immigration debate, particularly concerning the DREAM Act, via his new organization Define American. It is unclear what legal action may be taken against him in light of the public confession.