Fact Checking The Fact Checkers

Ken AshfordRight Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

Right-wing columnist Andrew Ferguson wrote a hit piece on Al Gore’s new book for the Washington Post, which started this way:

You can’t really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It’s a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I’d love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.

You get the gist of what Ferguson is trying to say in his slam piece: Gore is just writing any old blather down, without giving citations and sources, so how can you trust Gore’s facts?

Slight problem for Ferguson, though.  It turns out that Gore’s book, while not having footnotes, has 20 pages of endnotes.  And in the endnotes, Gore does source the Lincoln quote on page 88.

Now, what happened here?  Did Ferguson not bother to look through the entire book before he critiqued it for its supposed lack of sourcing?  Or was he trying to pull a fast one on his readers, by making a lame footnote/endnote distinction?

In any event, Ferguson’s column was originally titled (very ironically) "Fact Check", but since Ferguson’s error (deception?) have been noted, the column title has been changed and the Post has had to run a rather embarrassing correction at the top, letting readers know that the Post itself apparently dropped the ball when it failed to properly factcheck Ferguson’s "factchecking".

Tom Schaller at Tapped has more.