I Attempt to Emulate Volokh

In Slate, Timothy Noah has been trying to castigate Ari Fleischer's book Taking Heat in a series of articles billed as "an ongoing inquiry into dishonest or insane assertions buried inside Ari Fleischer's White House memoir."

The series got off to a lousy start when Noah tried to pass off a quote from the book as if Fleischer had uttered it himself, when it actually came from Mark Halperin at ABC's The Note. Eugene Volokh nailed the problem quickly, and Slate had to correct the article.

Now in "Fleischer Watch, Part 3", Noah tries to rip Fleischer for saying:

In the coverage of the president's court victory, two words jumped out at me—closely divided. Every network and all the major newspaper accounts accurately noted that the ruling came from a closely divided Supreme Court. The Court did rule 5-4, after all. … But four days earlier, on December 8, the Florida Supreme Court had delivered a major victory to Al Gore in a 4-3 ruling that could have made the former Vice President the forty-third president of the United States. Looking back at the coverage of that ruling, it's hard to find many references to a "closely divided" court.

Noah then attempts to refute:

… I performed a database search on Nexis for Nov. 8-15, 2000, using the phrases "Florida Supreme Court" and "closely divided" and the words "Bush" and "Gore."

It's pretty clear, given the previous paragraph, that Noah should have searched December 8-15, 2000. Probably meant that, too.

This is a much less serious error than that caught by Volokh. But where's the error: did Noah type "Nov" when he meant "Dec" in composing his article, or did he make the mistake in his Nexis search?

I've bounced off a message to corrections@slate.com about this, just for fun. It will be interesting to see what happens. Slate's usually diligent about fixing things.


Last Modified 2005-04-01 5:40 PM EST