In Anatomy of a Smear, Part II, we described how the editorial writers at the New York Times had irresponsibly repeated a false claim about the Koch brothers, Charles and David, that they got from a far-left web site. Indeed, the Times editorial was even more cavalier with the facts than the internet activists had been. Here, I reproduced the email that I sent to the Times, asking for a correction:
I am writing to request a correction relating to an editorial that was published on March 30, 2011. I wrote generally about the editorial, which I read online, here: [URL omitted]
The specific statement with respect to which I am requesting a correction is as follows:
“[F]reshman Mike Pompeo of Kansas [is] dubbed the Congressman from Koch for championing the conservative agenda of the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David. They contributed handsomely — $80,000 worth — to Mr. Pompeo’s campaign kitty.”
That statement, taken from a left-wing web site, is incorrect. Koch Industries, Inc. is one of the largest employers in Kansas’s 4th Congressional District, and a number of Koch employees contributed to Mr. Pompeo’s campaign. (I assume some contributed to his opponent, as well.) As you probably know, FEC records include information about each contributor’s employment. The $80,000 figure was arrived at by adding up all contributors to Pompeo’s campaign with respect to whom the name “Koch” appeared anywhere. Thus, the $80,000 includes contributions from anyone who works for Koch as well as, for example, a contribution from one individual who works for an accounting firm, one of whose partners has the last name “Koch.”
FEC records indicate that, contrary to the Times’s statement that Charles and David Koch “contributed handsomely–$80,000 worth–to Mr. Pompeo’s campaign kitty,” Charles Koch contributed $2,400, while David Koch is not reported to have made any contribution at all.
I would appreciate it if you would see that the Times corrects this error. For ease of reference, here is a link to the relevant FEC information: [URL omitted]
I also wonder whether you can comment on the fact-checking that goes into NY Times editorials. Do your editorialists really rely on left-wing web sites for their facts, without making any independent effort to verify them? In this instance, FEC records are readily available. It would have taken less than ten minutes for your editorialists to learn that the $80,000 figure they got from a disreputable web site was not only incorrect, but apparently off by more than 3,200 percent. Is it really possible that no fact-checking takes place with respect to NY Times editorials?
I never received a response to my email, either from the Times correction desk or from Arthur Brisbane, the Public Editor, whom I copied on the email. Today, however, the Times acknowledged their error and issued the requested correction:
A March 31 editorial misstated donations by Charles and David Koch to Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas. Their political action committee, employees of Koch Industries, their families and other supporters donated $79,500, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The brothers did not personally donate $80,000.
Perhaps the Times editorialists and reporters will learn a lesson about relying on left-wing web sites for their facts. The deeper question remains, however: as I asked Mr. Brisbane, is it really possible that the New York Times editorial writers carry out no fact checking whatsoever with respect to their editorials? Or do they consider reading far-left web sites like Think Progress to be “fact checking”? Mr. Brisbane publishes his column on Sunday; perhaps he will address this question in his next column.