Howler of the Year from the NY Times

We and others have great fun tracking the duplicitous corrections at the New York Times, but the correction of Nick Kristof’s column last Saturday, “Is Hillary Clinton Dishonest?“, sets a new Olympic record.

Kristof’s column, as it reads online right now, relies on an evaluation by PolitiFact in the following way:

PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site, calculates that of the Clinton statements it has examined, 50 percent are either true or mostly true.

That compares to 49 percent for Bernie Sanders’s, 9 percent for Trump’s, 22 percent for Ted Cruz’s and 52 percent for John Kasich’s. Here we have a rare metric of integrity among candidates, and it suggests that contrary to popular impressions, Clinton is relatively honest — by politician standards.

And at the bottom of the column is this short correction:

Correction: April 23, 2016: An earlier version of this column misstated some of the percentages of true statements as judged by PolitiFact.

So how did the original version of Kristof’s column read? Here:

PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize winning fact checking site, calculates that of the Clinton statements it has examined, 95 percent are either true or mostly true.

That’s more than twice as high as the percentages for any of the other candidates, with 46 percent for Bernie Sanders’s, 12 percent for Trump’s, 23 percent for Ted Cruz’s and 33 percent for John Kasich’s. Here we have a rare metric of integrity among candidates, and it suggest that contrary to popular impressions, Clinton is far more honest and trustworthy than her peers.

So we go from 95 percent true to 50 percent true and switch out “far more honest and trustworthy than her peers” for “relatively honest by politician standards,” with the blink of a mere correction. (And isn’t “relatively honest by politician standards” the equivalent of “tallest building in Ottumwa, Iowa”?)

The column should have been retracted, since its premise and major piece—only piece—of evidence turned out to be completely wrong. I guess those “layers and layers of fact-checkers and editors” we were lectured about back during Rathergate must have taken the day off when Kristof filed his column. Or maybe we should go with “the National Enquirer is relatively trustworthy compared to the New York Times” and leave it at that.

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