NYT Columnists Need Better Editors

Think ProgressMatt Corley notes that for the NYT has been forced to append a correction on a Bill Kristol column for an egregious factual error. Citing Obama’s 41 point loss in West Virginia, Kristol exclaimed, “I can’t find a single recent instance of a candidate who ultimately became his party’s nominee losing a primary by this kind of margin.” In fact, Mike Huckabee won his native Arkansas by 41 points and Mitt Romney took Utah by nearly 90 points in a single day this cycle.

John Cole quips, “I am noticing a trend here. Kristol claims government is inefficient, ineffective, and bad, gets a bunch of his buddies elected, and proves it. He also rails against the MSM, claims they can’t get their facts straight, gets a job at the NY Times, and proves it.”

It’s noteworthy, too, that Kristol’s colleague, David Brooks, made a similar error earlier in the week, claiming that Obama had voted for a farm bill which he merely endorsed without casting a vote. These are dumb errors and one would think NYT fact checkers could find these things before going live. Columns aren’t published at blog speed, after all, and they have a staff of greater than one.

In fairness to Kristol and Brooks, though, their essential points worked with the real facts. Obama did in fact support and fail to vote against a farm bill that he surely would agree was a bad law. And Obama’s loss in a head-to-head race with a single candidate was staggering. There were 21 states voting and multiple candidates still running on Super Tuesday; McCain strategically avoided gimme states for his opponents and concentrated on consolidating victory. (Kristol’s larger argument, that this says much of anything about the general election, however, still strikes me as unpersuasive.)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. steveplunk says:

    Huckabee and Romney didn’t get their party’s nomination so how is this inaccurate?

  2. Bithead says:

    Think Progress‘ Matt Corley notes that for the NYT has been forced to append a correction on a Bill Kristol column for an egregious factual error. Citing Obama’s 41 point loss in West Virginia, Kristol exclaimed, “I can’t find a single recent instance of a candidate who ultimately became his party’s nominee losing a primary by this kind of margin.” In fact, Mike Huckabee won his native Arkansas by 41 points and Mitt Romney took Utah by nearly 90 points in a single day this cycle.

    It would, perhaps, be interesting to see if anything outside the current election cycle meets this criteria.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Huckabee and Romney didn’t get their party’s nomination so how is this inaccurate?

    That’s why it’s inaccurate.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    James, you might as well cross the word “better” out in your title. I doubt that columnists are edited at all, except possibly for length. It might even be in their contracts.

  5. Derrick says:

    The problem here is that we are arguing apples and oranges. David Brooks, while not being of my particular political stripe, has proven himself to be an honest adversary who we could forgive for a few mistakes out of hundred’s of columns. Bill Kristol on the other hand, is a partisan hack by just about anyone’s description of the phrase, who time and again makes up facts or outright lies to prove his partisan point, and has already been been corrected 3 or 4 times in his few months on the job. With Brooks blame the editors, but if you think Kristol made a ‘mistake’ you haven’t been paying attention.

  6. James Joyner says:

    James, you might as well cross the word “better” out in your title. I doubt that columnists are edited at all, except possibly for length. It might even be in their contracts.

    Could well be. You’d think they’d either have NYT or their own fact checkers, though, to catch these sort of things. Pundits, myself included, often write off the top of their heads based on things they’ve read and think they know which, every now and again, just ain’t so.

  7. steveplunk says:

    Boy am I stuck on stupid.