The war of words between Politico and Nate Silver appears to be escalating yet again. In a New Republic interview published Tuesday, the co-founders of Politico, Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris and executive editor Jim VandeHei, were asked to weigh in on Silver, which is not surprising given how critical their publication was of the New York Times blogger during the 2012 presidential election.
When asked about Silver and his FiveThirtyEight blog (which recently won its second consecutive Webby Award for “Best Political Blog”), the pair offered up a mix of praise and criticism.
“There are people in our gang who think he is overblown and get worked up about Nate Silver. I don’t give a damn,” said Harris, who admitted he doesn’t read Silver’s blog. He later added, “I admire how he has built a franchise. I roll my eyes at how he gets up on his high horse quite a lot on different topics.”
VandeHei, who acknowledged reading Silver’s work “episodically,” added, “Some of his stuff goes on and on, trying to use numbers to prove stuff that I don’t think can be proved by numbers alone. I know he is a Politico hater. I admire what he has been able to do.”
Later on Tuesday, Silver—who correctly forecast the presidential election results in all 50 states—responded to the New Republic interview via an email to Talking Points Memo.
“I thought it was a good interview,” he wrote, continuing that it was “striking” to him “how preoccupied Harris and VandeHei are with the perception that Politico is too ‘insidery.’ ”
Writing that his criticism was “deeper” than that, he continued: “It’s not that they are too ‘insidery’ per se, but that the perceptions of Beltway insiders, which Politico echoes and embraces, are not always very insightful or accurate. In other words, the conventional wisdom is often wrong, especially in Washington.”
Silver also took umbrage with the assertion that he uses “numbers to prove stuff,” as VandeHei stated in the interview. He explained that his FiveThirtyEight blog isn’t just about numbers, but “providing a critical perspective, and scrutinizing claims on the basis of evidence (statistical or otherwise).”
He wrote that part of Politico’s problem is that its co-founders “seem to lack very much curiosity for the world outside of the bubble.”
“Politico ... sometimes seems to operate within a ‘post-truth’ worldview,” he concluded. “Some people think that is the very essence of savvy, modern journalism, but my bet is that journalism is headed in another direction—toward being more critical and empirical.”
Read the New Republic interview with Politico’s co-founders here.
Read Silver’s full email response here.
—Posted by Tracy Bloom.
Screenshot via YouTube