11/13/2013 12:46 am ET Updated Nov 13, 2013

Richard Cohen Does Have An Editor, Just Not A Particularly Good One


In the wake of another gobsmackingly awful piece from Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen on Tuesday, I suggested that one thing that The Washington Post might want to try, as a kind of super-kooky idea, is to maybe hire an editor of some sort. You know, a human being who could say, "Hey, this thing you wrote about interracial marriage making most people want to throw up is sort of crazy and racist," and then just delete that part, allowing everyone to go on with their lives without thinking that maybe a major American newspaper lacks adult supervision.

Well, as it turns out, Richard Cohen does have an editor -- and the problem is that he's really not very good at his job. That editor, Fred Hiatt, gave a statement to The Wrap earlier today, taking responsibility. That is a good thing! But his explanation suggests that he is maybe not cut out for editing:

Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt took the blame for outrage, telling TheWrap: “Anyone reading Richard’s entire column will see he is just saying that some Americans still have a hard time dealing with interracial marriage. I erred in not editing that one sentence more carefully to make sure it could not be misinterpreted.”

Hiatt's contention that "anyone reading Richard's entire column will see he is just saying that some Americans still have a hard time dealing with interracial marriage," is just flat-out wrong. It is, in fact, impossible to have that take-away, reading Cohen's piece.

You see, Cohen, in his column, wrote, "People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York -- a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children." The word "conventional," means "based on or in accordance with what is generally done or believed." That means that Cohen was very specifically asserting that this "gag reflex" reaction to interracial marriage was something experienced by most people. Not some people.

There is a word that describes something based on or in accordance with what some people believe, and that word is "unconventional." Had Cohen used the word "unconventional," there would be no problem. It would, in fact, be statistically accurate, as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein points out in a column titled, "No, gagging over interracial marriage is not the "conventional view."

So, sure, Hiatt definitely could have been more careful. He could have carefully reached for a dictionary, or carefully paid attention in his middle-school English class when his teacher was trying to explain what words meant.

[Hat tip: TPM]

Here's A Crazy Idea I Just Had: Someone Should Maybe Edit The Washington Post

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