U.S. Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones wept on “The Today Show” Wednesday morning when she talked about a New York Times column published last Saturday that was harshly critical of her.
Jones, 30, was interviewed in London by Savannah Guthrie who asked her about how she was feeling on the morning after she finished out of the running and without a medal in her signature event, the women’s 100-meter hurdles.
The athlete was relatively sanguine about her finish, but she became very emotional when she talked about the New York Times column, which criticized her for public statements she’d made about her strong Christian faith and her goal of remaining a virgin until she’s married.
“Judging from this year’s performances, Lolo Jones seems to have only a slim chance of winning an Olympic medal in the 100-meter hurdles and almost no possibility of winning gold,” read the lead sentence of this brutal commentary by someone named Jere Longman (you can read the whole thing here).
“Still, Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games,” the column continued. “This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.”
In her interview with Guthrie, Jones said she found it particularly galling that such a commentary would come from a major American newspaper in the middle of the Olympics. “The fact that it was from the U.S. media,” she said between sobs, “they should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds and I just thought that that was crazy because I work six days a week everyday for four years for a 12-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart — it was just heartbreaking.”
Earlier in the week, Jones talked about some of the very topics that column criticized her for, in another interview with Savannah Guthrie.
Our take: The column seemed to be trying to make a point that Jones was taking advantage of her own personal story (not to mention her physique) in order to promote herself. And her assertion that U.S. media should be “more supportive” of the U.S. athletes is an ill-informed hope on her part since professional journalists aren’t really geared to think that way. Instead, they’re geared to think — and write — critically. However, this particular column struck us as excessively mean, as if this journalist had some kind of personal axe to grind.
In short, this columnist did his job poorly.