Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Pat Moynihan Devoted to Getting the Facts Right
As part of a celebration marking the publication of “Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson read one of the letters of Senator Moynihan included in the book and comment on its significance. Jamieson is the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The following is a transcript of Jamieson’s selection, which may also be listened to or downloaded as a podcast.
Letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. November 3, 2000
Kathleen Hall Jamieson: When Brooks Jackson and I put together factcheck.org and were looking for an identifying tag, we went to Senator Moynihan and picked the statement that Sam just cited, “People are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.” I have selected as my letter a letter telling us a tale of unrequited love by a man wronged, wronged by a news outlet that got its facts wrong.
Why would the Times magazine publish such a nasty cover story – “Who was Pat Moynihan?” Here I am, three years shy of a half-century of government and politics, leaving quietly and peaceably. I have begged off all manner of interview requests, yet I felt an obligation to the Times. And look what it got me. It is no great matter to be called a “Shakespearean fool” or to be described going about London as a “English dandy, sporting a monocle.” But it is not true. A monocle? Any fact checker could have called me – still no matter. But to read that I “declined to hold Finance Committee hearings” on the Clinton Healthcare Bill is outrageous (page 51). I held seven months of hearings, one of which is described in the very next paragraph (page 52).
Now, the editor of this excellent volume does not then indicate how the letter closed. I suspect because there was some censorship of language involved, but had factcheck.org been around at this time, Maura, we would have fact-checked this and, Steven, we would have sided with the Senator.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson