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Planet Earth

George Will: Locked In Ice!

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerFebruary 27, 2009 4:27 AM


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Last week I dedicated a few posts (1, 2, 3, 4) to a column by George Will on global warming as an example of why fact-checking is important. The whole thing flared up a lot more than I had expected, with the Washington Post editorial page folks actually claiming they had fact checked Will through a "multi-layered" fact-checking process. (Unfortunately, no one bothered to pick up a phone to call a research center cited in the piece.) Etc., etc. I've been too busy with many deadlines on other projects to keep close track of this any longer, but I just had to pass on this bit of news from Talking Points Memo: George Will is back, baby!

We thought we were done with the topic of George Will and climate change. But now we've gotten an advanced look at Will's latest column, set to run tomorrow in the Washington Post and in syndication. And it amounts to a stubborn defense of the amazing global warming denialist column he published earlier this month, that was ripped apart by just about everyone and their mother -- including us.... Will stands by the substance of the February 15 column, maintaining, in the case of the key factual dispute, that he had accurately reported the findings of a respected climate research center on the question of sea-ice levels. Though the center has since put out a statement disavowing Will's use of its data, Will claims that last month it posted confirmation of that very data on its web site -- and, getting all bloggy, includes a link. We'll leave it to others to parse the finer points of this defense -- though it's immediately noticeable that Will doesn't mention that the center's confirmation of its findings notes that the data concerns global sea ice levels, rather than northern hemispheric levels. Global levels, it says, "may not be the most relevant indicator." But after Will and Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt declined to answer TPMmuckraker's questions about the column -- leaving that task to the paper's ombudsman, who cited the paper's "multi-layer editing process" -- it's certainly intriguing that Will has chosen to wade back into the muck.

I'll have to wait to see the column itself to comment on it, but what's really intriguing to me is that the multi-layer editing process over at the Post has let Will sail through the fact-checking process yet again. I just wonder if they bothered to call anyone this time.

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