"Paul Ryan nailed it again," writes Niall Ferguson for Newsweek today.
The New Republic dumped Stephen Glass. The New York Times did the same with Jayson Blair. Wired and The New Yorker also extricated themselves from Jonah Lehrer. This American Life apologized for its reporting from Mike Daisey.
But Tina Brown doubled down. One week after Niall Ferguson embarrassed everyone at her organization with a cover story packed with falsehoods, and after he doubled down with an equally dishonest retorts to his critics, she offered the Newsweek platform to fabulist once more, so he can echo Paul Ryan's claptrap.
Ferguson presumes to write about economic policy. But the world of business and finance has a word for Ferguson's tendency, which is to cherry pick facts and present them in a misleading way; it's called fraud. In other words, it's not acceptable to say: "2 + 2 = 1," and assert that this was your "opinion," without disclosing that you deleted the part of the equation that says "subtract 3."
Ferguson's "nitpicking" defense shows that he is out of his depth. After all, 98% of the financial data in Enron's financial statements was perfectly accurate, so why would anyone start nitpicking about the exclusion of a few billion in liabilities?
When you purposefully exclude the data that totally undercuts your assertion, as Ferguson did in his Newsweek cover story, and did a second time in his retort to the universal condemnation of his mendacity, you are not expressing an opinion, you are promoting The Big Lie.
Ferguson is far more dangerous fabulist than Stephen Glass, or Blair, or Lehrer. Those guys got away with what they did because they were writing human interest stories, which do not impact government or economic policy. But Ferguson falsifies matters of grave national importance; he poisons the well of political debate.
It might be understandable that a media outlet might want to paper over the embarrassment of printing a cover story packed with lies. Some failures are too big to be acknowledged. You might want to start fresh and aspire to do better.
But Newsweek's biggest embarrassment turned out to be one of its best selling issues. No publicity is bad publicity.
Ferguson's latest piece is not patently dishonest. It's just a slick political rant that touts certain facts and ignores others. But to those of us who believe in facts, professional integrity and the 9th Commandment, Ferguson, who showed zero contrition for his lies, is damaged goods that taint Newsweek and Daily Beast brands.
Or as they say, when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas.