Newsweek's Anti-Obama Cover Story Draws Howls

Niall Ferguson piece dubbed misleading by Paul Krugman, others
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2012 3:49 PM CDT
Newsweek's Anti-Obama Cover Story Draws Howls
Barack Obama puts his jacket over his shoulder as he walks to the car at the University of Nevada at Reno, Nev., Sept. 30, 2008.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Newsweek has found itself at the center of controversy again, this time with a cover story titled "Hit the Road, Barack," in which economist (and McCain 2008 adviser) Niall Ferguson picks apart the Obama presidency. Ferguson accuses the president of breaking campaign promises, boosting the deficit, letting the US fall behind economically, abandoning Afghanistan, and much more. Voters, he writes, "can let Barack Obama’s rambling, solipsistic narrative continue until they find themselves living in some American version of Europe … or they can opt for real change."

But voices have been coming out of the woodwork to lambaste Ferguson for factual errors. A taste:

  • Paul Krugman fired the opening shot, noting that Ferguson, in trying to prove that ObamaCare would bust the deficit, wrote that the CBO had estimated that the "insurance-coverage provision" would cost around $1.2 trillion. But anyone who even skimmed the CBO report would know this is a distortion; the full law reduced the deficit. "I guess they don't do fact-checking" at Newsweek, he writes. "The Times would require an abject correction if something like that slipped through."
  • Ferguson called that a "truly feeble objection," saying that what he'd written had been technically true—but Business Insider calls that defense "embarrassing" and Politico calls it "ridiculous." "Niall Ferguson's defense is that he was being very obtuse and misleading," scoffs Joe Weisenthall.
  • Matthew Yglesias at Slate points out that one of Ferguson's charts is absurd; Ferguson appears to be blaming Obama for Chinese growth.
  • Blogger Noah Smith points out many more distortions—like Ferguson blaming Obama for not fulfilling his promise to "build the roads, and bridges, and electric grids," while praising Paul Ryan, who is calling for drastic infrastructure cuts.
  • The Atlantic runs a full fact-check, and finds loads more distortions. Ferguson, for instance, blames Obama for job losses that took place in 2008, before he took office, among many others.
  • Newsweek has confirmed Krugman's suspicion that it does not fact-check. "We, like other news organizations today, rely on our writers to submit factually accurate material," a spokesman told Politico.
(Read more Niall Ferguson stories.)

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