Niall Ferguson’s Bad Education

Gene Lyons is a columnist and co-author of "The Hunting of the President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton."

During a presidential campaign, the temptation is always to melodrama. Having spent most of twenty years lamenting the vanishing professional ethics of the news media, I nevertheless found myself gobsmacked, as the Brits say, by Newsweek’s cover story by Harvard University historian Niall Ferguson entitled “Obama’s Gotta Go.”

Ferguson’s surely entitled to his opinions (although not his vote, as he’s a British subject, not an American citizen) but to paraphrase the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he’s not entitled to his own facts. Riddled with ludicrous errors and manifest deceptions, the article’s publication on the cover of a major news magazine at first struck me as ominous.

That Ferguson’s a professor made things worse. Academics theoretically hold themselves to more strenuous standards than journalists. I even found myself rummaging around in the University of Virginia honor code, where I went to school, for definitions of academic fraud.

And yes, it’s that bad. Vote for whomever you like. But if you make your choice based upon the following howler, then you’ve been had: “The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit,” Ferguson charged. “But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.”

comments powered by Disqus
History News Network