New York Times poll guru Nate Silver isn't backing down from his assertion that Barack Obama has a very good chance of winning the presidential election.
Silver was engulfed in a classic media controversy after a Politico article said he could be a "one-term celebrity" if Obama wound up losing. That article provoked a large backlash, and Silver sent several tart tweets in response:
"I think I get a lot of grief because I frustrate narratives that are told by pundits and journalists that don't have a lot of grounding in objective reality," he told Charlie Rose on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Silver took an even more audacious step, putting his money where his statistician's mouth was. He must have spotted some tweets by Joe Scarborough, who has very publicly trashed Silver's way of covering elections.
Scarborough wrote that Silver and right-leaning pollster Scott Rasmussen "stand alone in their certainty" about how the election is going to go.
Silver responded by betting Scarborough $1,000 over the outcome of the race:
Scarborough responded by proposing that both he and Silver donate the Red Cross unconditionally. Silver then doubled the bet:
Later in the day, Scarborough agreed to donate $1,000 to the Red Cross in response to a reader who offered to match the donation. Silver did not respond.
It was the second time Scarborough had been offered a wager about the race in two days. He also made a mustache-related bet with Obama adviser David Axelrod on Wednesday.
UPDATE: Silver spoke to the Times' public editor, Margaret Sullivan, about the bet, which he called "half playful and half serious."
"He’s been on a rant, calling me an idiot and a partisan, so I’m asking him to put some integrity behind it," he said. "I don’t stand to gain anything from it; it’s for charity."
Sullivan opined that Silver's bet had been "a bad idea" and "inappropriate" because Silver was representing the Times and would reinforce conservative complaints about him.
"When he came to work at The Times, Mr. Silver gained a lot more visibility and the credibility associated with a prominent institution. But he lost something, too: the right to act like a free agent with responsibilities to nobody’s standards but his own," she wrote.
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