By this point, any media outlet that’s been paying attention has made a decision about McCaughey’s credibility. Will The Wall Street Journal—which chose to run an op-ed by McCaughey on Aug. 27, well after the Times, the Post, ABC and Politifact had lobbed their grenades in her direction—change its judgment now? And as long as McCaughey has safe harbor at places like the WSJ editorial page, does one more heaping of abuse make a difference? The campaign against McCaughey has been welcome, but barring radical changes in the media environment, if we’re talking health care again in 2025, she’ll surely find an outlet for her claims again. The key is how the rest of the media responds.
This is the other danger, one that both Nyhan and Klein note—the possibility that by focusing on McCaughey personally, we may overlook the deeper patterns she has been able to exploit. As Klein writes, the problem is that “McCaughey isn’t just a liar. She’s an exciting liar”:
That’s not very helpful in the policy debate, but it’s very useful in the media debate… McCaughey might be something of a uniquely deceptive individual, but she’s taking advantage of a structural weakness in the system.
The upshot is that we need to address that “structural weakness”—not, at this point, keep competing to see who can do the best job of filleting McCaughey.