06/15/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Krugman/Sorkin Feud: Clark Hoyt Weighs In

So, remember back on Monday, when it looked like Andrew Ross Sorkin and Paul Krugman were set to go all Aaron Burr/Alex Hamilton on each other, only with blogs? That was a fascinating time in our lives. We weighed in here, and you can read Andrew Leonard and Foster Kamer's takes on the tilt, as well. But now, here's the judgment of the New York Times' Public Editor Clark Hoyt, who says, "One of these marquee columnists is right, and the other isn't - and The Times owes its readers an explanation." I suppose they do!

[Sorkin] quoted Krugman as saying in a column last year: "Why not just go ahead and nationalize? Remember, the longer we live with zombie banks, the harder it will be to end the economic crisis."

Krugman did write those words, but a full and fair reading of the column where they appeared does not support the notion that he favored nationalizing the entire banking system. Nor did he say that without nationalization the banks would fail again, with a worldwide ripple effect. In fact, Krugman wrote that he agreed with Alan Greenspan, who had said, "It may be necessary to temporarily nationalize some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring." Krugman's argument for doing so was that, if the government was going to have to put up all the money to get the banks going again, it should get the ownership.

Hoyt goes on to relate that he sent Sorkin "a message telling him that I did not think his citations supported his argument that Krugman had called for nationalizing the entire banking system." Sorkin subsequently described the matter as "an issue of semantics." Krugman's response was that he just simply never, ever advocated for a government takeover of "all banks."

Andrew Rosenthal, who oversees the Times's op-ed page, backed Krugman, and Bill Keller, the Times's executive editor, said that if Sorkin erred, "he - and we - should correct it, of course." (It seems to me that Keller's subtext there was basically, "Gah, why are you coming to me with this junk, whatever, run a correction I guess, pffffff.")

Hoyt's final analysis:

I think the right thing to do is to simply acknowledge that, in trying to quickly summarize Krugman's nuanced position, Sorkin over-simplified and got it wrong.

One hundred years from now, the Civil War reenactors of the future will recreate this whole chapter of our lives on the internet, so your great-grandchildren will have that to look forward to!

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