Letter to the Washington Post

Andy Alexander is the Washington Post ombudsman who wrote the absurd defense of George Will’s essay in global-warming denialism, a defense torn to shreds by Hilzoy. Alexander’s action is even less defensible than Will’s, and casts a shadow over every word that’s printed in what used to be a fine newspaper.

I think it’s important that the Post hear about his, and hear about it again, and then hear about it some more. This should be an experience no one in the management team wants to repeat, ever again.

Click through here to send your email. Mine follows.

Dear Mr. Alexander:

Your response to queries about George Will’s misrepresentations both of scientific fact and of how those facts have been reported by scientists, published on the Web, has left me, and many other long-time admirers of the Post, dumbfounded and dismayed.

Will was, simply, wrong, and dishonestly so. The source he cited reported that total ocean ice has remained more or less stable, but that Northern Hemisphere ice, predicted by global-warming models to shrink, has done so, while Southern Hemisphere ice, about which the models make ambiguous predictions, has grown. Thus Will’s claim that the sea-ice figures support his what-me-worry optimism was grossly, obviously, and inexcusably wrong.

Fine. That’s what George Will does for a living: offer sermons to comfort the comfortable. And there’s at least a reasonable case for the Post printing his nonsense as the reflection of an important point of view.

But when you, on behalf of what used to be a respected newspaper, endorse his dishonesty, there’s something seriously, seriously wrong. There are still honest and competent reporters writing for the Post, but if any article in the paper is to be believed it will now have to be on the basis of the reporter’s known integrity and skill, not on the fact of its publication in a newspaper that not only publishes palpable falsehood but then justifies doing so.

I doubt that Katherine Graham would have approved.


Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy