Okrent vs. Krugman: The Latest (and Last) Round

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By: E&P Staff

The latest round in the battle between recently departed New York Times Public Editor Dan Okrent and Op-Ed columnst Paul Krugman took another turn today, as they belted each other on the newspaper’s Web site.

In his final week at the Times, Okrent suggested that Krugman played a bit fast and loose with facts, drawing a published letter from the columnist demanding specifics. Okrent supplied some examples, and Krugman hit back on the new public editor’s section at the site. (Barney Calame has just started work)

After discussing at length some of the examples cited by Okrent and denying that he did not “play fair” with readers, Krugman writes: “To summarize: when I asked Mr. Okrent for evidence of my malfeasance, he provided one example in which his description of what I did was simply wrong, and another in which he accused me of pulling a fast one on readers, when all I did was use official data in a standard way. …

“Let me repeat that Mr. Okrent never raised these issues as public editor. He now says that he didn’t because he “experienced your best-defense-is-a-good-offense approach, and found it futile to deal with it. …

“I hope we aren’t going to get into an extended period in which Mr. Okrent, who failed to air his concerns when that was his job, then failed even in private to provide examples that bear any resemblance to what he accused me of doing, keeps throwing out new accusations.”

Okrent responded: “For a man who makes his living offering strong opinions, Paul Krugman seems peculiarly reluctant to grant the same privilege to others. And for a man who leads with his chin twice a week, he acts awfully surprised when someone takes a pop at it.”

After disputing some of Krugman’s assertions in discussing his alleged errors, Okrent writes: “This was the first he heard from me on these specific issues partly because I learned early on in this job that Prof. Krugman would likely be more willing to contribute to the Frist for President campaign than to acknowledge the possibility of error.”

Okrent declared that he could cite other misuse of statistics, but “I don’t want to engage in an extended debate any more than Prof. Krugman says he does. If he replies to this statement, as I imagine he will, I’ll let him have what he always insists on keeping for himself: the last word. I hate to do this to a decent man like my successor, Barney Calame, but I’m hereby turning the Krugman beat over to him.”

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