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Embarrassing Correction of the Day

August 15, 2012, 5:40 pm

Well, that was a doozy. Monday, amidst the general piling-on of Fareed Zakaria (for reasons good and proper, I should note), the Washington Post breathlessly ran a story headlined “More questions raised about Fareed Zakaria’s work”:

Zakaria’s 2008 book, “The Post-American World,” contains a quote from former Intel Corp. chief executive Andy Grove about the nation’s economic power. “America is in danger of following Europe down the tubes, and the worst part is that nobody knows it,” Grove says in Zakaria’s book. “They’re all in denial, patting themselves on the back as the Titanic heads straight for the iceberg full speed ahead.” The first edition of Zakaria’s book, which became a bestseller, makes no mention of the comment’s source, nor does a paperback version of “Post-American World” published in 2009.

Thief of quotes!

Except, well, no, as David Frum pointed out (my god, I’m linking to something by David Frum. The world can now end):

This charge is false, as 10 minutes’ work by the Washington Post would have shown.

The 2009 paperback does contain a citation to Prestowitz: footnote 11, page 262. We photocopied the page this very afternoon at the DC Public Library’s central branch: I’m hoping the PDF below is legible. We couldn’t locate a physical copy of the 2008 hardcover edition in time, but Amazon’s “look inside” feature shows Prestowitz there in hardcover too, also in footnote 11, page 262.

He (or some poor intern) photocopied the page and posted it. That’s dedication to research. What’s more remarkable (as Frum pointed out) was that the Washington Post reporter apparently couldn’t be bothered to check the actual books, which obviously leads to the question of who gave him the idea that the quote hadn’t been attributed.

(Frum’s piece, by the way, includes this doozy:

I spoke last night to Paul Farhi, author of the Washington Post story accusing Fareed Zakaria of having filched a quotation from Clyde Prestowitz without credit. I asked Farhi whether he had done anything to verify Prestowitz’s complaint of quote-stealing by Zakaria. We agreed that the conversation would be off-the-record, so I won’t quote Farhi’s answer. But I don’t need to. The pages speak for themselves.

Ouch.)

In any case, the Post today corrected the story with the following:

Correction: This story incorrectly states that in the initial hardcover edition of his 2008 book, “The Post-American World,” Fareed Zakaria failed to cite the source of a quote taken from another book. In fact, Zakaria did credit author Clyde V. Prestowitz.

(Just too much excitement. The correction has been updated: Correction: This article incorrectly states that in his 2008 book, “The Post-American World,” Fareed Zakaria failed to cite the source of a quotation taken from another book. In fact, Zakaria did credit the other work, by Clyde V. Prestowitz. Endnotes crediting Prestowitz were contained in hardcover and paperback editions of Zakaria’s book. The Post should have examined copies of the books and should not have published the article. We regret the error and apologize to Fareed Zakaria.)

This roughly translates as “The central contention of this story is completely wrong, as just a tiny bit of research would have shown.”

I would use Brad DeLong’s ongoing lament about “why, oh why can’t we have a better press corps,” but the Washington Post might write an article about it being unattributed.

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