Investor’s Business Daily corrected an embarrassing boo-boo in an editorial and in the process made another huge error.
In an editorial ginning up fear over Obama’s health-care plan and comparing it to the dread National Health Service in the UK, IBD wrote that the famed physicist Stephen Hawking would have been toast had he lived in the UK because, IBD said, ridiculously, the country’s eugenics-like health policies deem handicapped people worthless.
Of course, Hawking is British and has lived there his whole life. He’s a professor at Cambridge for crying out loud.
Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught the whopper and it was picked up by other outlets, including Talking Points Memo.
Here’s the original line, which is now stricken from the editorial:
People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.
This is sick, dishonest stuff, so it’s sweet that Hawking himself calls it out, telling a TPM blogger “I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”
But IBD’s correction creates another problem. Here is its entire text:
Editor’s Note: This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK.
It has removed the Hawking reference from the story (even, apparently, in Factiva, which doesn’t have it either), but short-arms the correction, which should have read something like: “This version corrects the original editorial which falsely implied that physicist Stephen Hawking would be dead as a doornail if he lived in the UK and had to use the National Health. Hawking has lived in the UK his entire life, and as of press time, is still alive.
In my dream world they’d also tack on an “Also, this basically kills the premise of our entire editorial, which never should have been written. We resign in disgrace.”
Alas, that’s not going to happen. But IBD ought to go ahead and correct the false information contained in its quote of the notorious Betsy McCaughey, who says the House’s bill “compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years,” which is an easy-to-figure-out fact error, as The Atlantic’s Conor Clarke makes plain. I’m sure there are a few other fact errors in there. Send me an email or post a comment if you see one.
I don’t have much of an opinion on Obama’s health-care plan. I do think we ought to have the debate on the facts and not on fallacious and dangerous talking points about “death panels” and the like.
And if you correct a serious mistake, you have to be clear about what you’re really correcting, no matter how embarrassing or how much it kills your argument.Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.