The Washington Post vs. George Will?

By Chris Mooney | April 7, 2009 3:01 pm

There have been some striking developments in this saga today. For the first time, those in the employ of the Washington Post itself are starting to come out and criticize George Will’s misinformation.

Exhibit A: A post from the Post‘s Capital Weather Gang blog by Andrew Freeman, which totally takes Will apart. Read the whole thing here. This is right on the Post’s website.

Meanwhile, Grist‘s David Roberts just alerted me to another example. In the paper’s news pages, Juliet Eilperin and Mary Beth Sheridan report today on Arctic sea ice decline, and write:

The new evidence — including satellite data showing that the average multiyear wintertime sea ice cover in the Arctic in 2005 and 2006 was nine feet thick, a significant decline from the 1980s — contradicts data cited in widely circulated reports by Washington Post columnist George F. Will that sea ice in the Arctic has not significantly declined since 1979.

Gee, do you think anybody at the Post agrees with us that George Will is spewing misinformation?

The Post has thus far pursued a “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach on this issue–Will can write what he wants, and meanwhile, I can contradict him on the oped page, Michel Jarraud on the letters page, Andrew Freedman for the weather blog, and Eilperin and Sheridan in the news pages. It is in some ways an understandable approach for a newspaper to take, and yet also highly problematic: When someone is as factually wrong as Will is, it shouldn’t just be a matter of opinion.

Nevertheless, there are now four separate Washington Post rejoinders to Will of various types, and that has to count for something.

Comments (11)

  1. My perspective on the George Will affair remains unchanged.

  2. Jon Winsor

    This just shows that the rest of the world outside of the conservative movement lives in a bubble of elite opinion. George Will should roll his office chair down the hall and complain to the eastern media establishment.

  3. Jon Winsor

    Sounds like a bit of a revolt from the rank and file. Reminds me of something I read last year about Barton Gellman’s reporting on Dick Cheney. A while after that, Gellman’s executive editor (at least the one mentioned in the Rosen post I linked to) turned to a career writing fiction. Hmmm.

  4. gnarlytrombone

    It still doesn’t go far enough. The data wasn’t contradicted; it was Will’s misrepresentation of the data.

  5. james wheaton

    I would like to see this liar “run out of town”. Perhaps it is because I was too gullible in past years – I fell for his “look” and his intelligent and confident sounding way of speaking and writing. Consequently I listened to him, feeling he may be on the right track about whatever he addressed. Anyway, in my mind he is even more dangerous than Hannity or Limbaugh. At least those two can be easily seen for what they are just by listening or watching.

    It is so very tough to separate the wheat from the chaff with so many issues these days. But I have a fairly reliable way (I think) – if a reporter or writer or pundit or politician denies AGW and/or evolution (and if they do they usually are proud enough about it to say so), then that is my signal to distrust anything he/she says. These two issues are obvious enough to anyone who thinks pragmatically without a hidden agenda, that to deny or misrepresent either is to give away one’s basic ignorance or worse dishonesty.

  6. you know what makes flowers bloom? bullsh*t.

  7. Dark Tent

    so, the obvious question is this: where were all these “Will doubters” at the Post before this late hour?

    What took them so long to publish a “correction” after nearly everyone else on the internet had pointed out Will’s errors?

    It couldn’t be “will-ful’ ignorance on the part of others at the Post, now, could it?

    I am sorry, but the sudden “rash’ of “Will bashing” at this late date appears to me to be little more than a case of the Post’s managers trying to regain a scrap of integrity out of all of this.

    I hate to say it, but in this case, it is rather convenient to shift all the blame onto Will.

    I’m sorry, but real “journalism’ is not about agreeing 3 years later that “Iraq had no WMD”.

    Not even close.

  8. Jon Winsor

    On Maddow, one of the Post’s columnists briefly discusses his editor’s decision on Will:

    http://mediamatters.org/countyfair/200904080037?show=1

  9. Repeating a comment on a different Intersection post:

    For what it’s worth, the Post has finally published a contrary editorial itself, the first sentence of which is, “Make no mistake, Arctic Sea ice is melting.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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