JAYSON BLAIR SPEAKS….Well, even if nothing else is clear, it sure looks like Jayson Blair is a very, um, animated person, as well as a very troubled one. Was race an issue at the Times? He sure thinks so ? but in more ways than one:

“Anyone who tells you that my race didn?t play a role in my career at The New York Times is lying to you,” Mr. Blair said. “Both racial preferences and racism played a role. And I would argue that they didn?t balance each other out. Racism had much more of an impact.”

Mr. Blair had many opinions about racism at The New York Times. For one thing, he said, “there are senior managers at The New York Times who want African-American reporters to succeed, and there are hundreds of white junior managers who resent that and don?t.”

And he also said: “There are a lot of people who are not racist. But there are a lot who are. I have anecdotes upon anecdotes upon anecdotes that I?m not going to share. A book full of anecdotes.”

….”I don?t understand why I am the bumbling affirmative-action hire when Stephen Glass is this brilliant whiz kid, when from my perspective?and I know I shouldn?t be saying this?I fooled some of the most brilliant people in journalism,” he said. “He [Glass] is so brilliant, and yet somehow I?m an affirmative-action hire. They?re all so smart, but I was sitting right under their nose fooling them.”

Mr. Blair continued: “If they?re all so brilliant and I?m such an affirmative-action hire, how come they didn?t catch me?”

And did Howell Raines protect him because he was black? Blair seems to think not:

“Bullshit!” Mr. Blair said, raising his voice. “Protected my ass. I spent days in the smoking room. Days of my life in the smoking room, complaining about how I wasn?t protected. Protected by whom? Was it Gerald, who was constantly trying to block me at every turn? Was it Howell, who didn?t know me? Was it Lelyveld, who didn?t care? Was it Bill Keller [the former managing editor], who didn?t give a shit? Which one was it? Was it Soma [Soma Golden Behr, an assistant managing editor], who only cares about pretty Jewish girls at The New York Times? Which one was protecting me? Mike Oreskes? Who? Al Siegal, who doesn?t speak to people?”

OK then. At any rate, this New York Observer interview should have plenty of grist for people on all sides of the great Jayson Blair debate. Read the whole thing.