The Washington Post lost $192 million last year. This is not a newspaper that can afford to alienate its readership.
And yet, the Post is going all-in on George Will's credibility.
For the past week, Will and the Post have faced sustained criticism over dubious claims Will made about global warming - and over a pattern of such claims from both Will and the Post.
Earlier today, Media Matters obtained an advance copy of Will's next column, in which Will doubles-down on his previous global warming misinformation. As Media Matters explained:
In his new column, Will falsely claims that in his February 15 column, he "accurately reported" on the contents of an Arctic Climate Research Center (ACRC) document when, in fact, the document he cited rebutted the very argument he was making. The ACRC document that Will relied on actually stated that the sea ice data are consistent with the outcomes projected by climate-change models. In the words of TPM Muckraker's Zachary Roth, Will's new column "amounts to a stubborn defense of the amazing global warming denialist column he published earlier this month, that was ripped apart by just about everyone and their mother."
Then Columbia Journalism Review weighed in with a piece posted this evening, featuring quotes from Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. Hiatt defends Will's previous column:
"If you want to start telling me that columnists can't make inferences which you disagree with-and, you know, they want to run a campaign online to pressure newspapers into suppressing minority views on this subject-I think that's really inappropriate. It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject - so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don't make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn't be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him."
But this controversy is not about "inferences" by Will with which others "disagree." It is about Will spreading falsehoods. And it is about the Washington Post standing by those falsehoods - a rather large gamble for a newspaper that cannot afford to lose readers or credibility.
That's a lot riding on someone with Will's track record.