Response to Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes’ newest claims at ThinkProgress

31 Aug , 2016  

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I have responded previously to some of these claims by Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes. Their latest attack is over at ThinkProgress, which bills itself as providing a progressive perspective. No doubt, the attack was prompted by the media coverage that I have been getting for my new book, The War on Guns.  If they feel the need to attack, it shows that we are making some progress in educating people and they mention my book near the beginning of their attack piece.

Regarding the bottom of line of whether concealed carry reduces murder rates, here is a list of papers published in peer-reviewed journals by economists and criminologists.

Let me go through DeFilippis’ and Hughes’ points in order.

1)Lott’s assertion that more guns leads to more safety formally repudiated by a National Research Council panel

DeFilippis and Hughes incorrectly describe the National Research Council report.  The NRC report simply said that they could not draw any conclusions with respect to right-to-carry laws.

The report examined seemingly every possible gun law that has been studied by academics, but the NRC panel could not identify one particular law that made a statistically significant difference. Only on right-to-carry laws was there a dissent from this conclusion. James Q. Wilson pointed out that all of the panel’s own regressions found that right-to-carry reduces murder rates.  In the previous 15 years, there had only been one other dissent.

Academics who don’t sign on to an NRC report are not invited back to be on future panels.  This creates strong pressure not to dissent and to agree with reports which refuse to say that anything matters. In any case, the NRC report actually found more support for my findings than for any other study.

For all the various gun control laws, the NRC panel simply said that no conclusions could be drawn and they called for more research.  Nothing was different for right-to-carry laws, though DeFilippis and Hughes would never note this for any of the gun control laws that they support.  Here are quotes from the executive summary of the NRC report:

For right-to-carry laws, the committed concluded: “If further headway is to be made, in the committee’s judgment, new analytical approaches and data are needed.”

For violence and suicide: “the committee also recommends further studies of the link between firearms policy and suicide.”

For restricting access: “the committee recommends that work be started to think carefully about possible research and data designs to address these issues.”

For prevention programs and technology: “the committee recommends that firearm violence prevention programs should be based on general prevention theory, that government programs should incorporate evaluation into implementation efforts, and that a sustained body of empirical research be developed to study the effects of different safety technologies on violence and crime.”

For criminal justice interventions: “The committee recommends that a sustained, systematic research program be conducted to assess the effect of targeted policing and sentencing aimed at firearms offenders.”

 

2) DeFilippis and Hughes claim: Lott had also been caught pushing studies with severe statistical errors on numerous occasions.

They point to a paper by Ayres and Donohue in the Stanford Law Review. However, the Stanford Law Review issued an unusual, strongly-worded correction. The paper that Ayres and Donohue were commenting on was not my paper. It was a paper by Florenz Plassmann and John Whitley. The Stanford Law Review stated that, “Ayres and Donohue’s Reply piece is incorrect, unfortunate, and unwarranted” because of this misimpression and why I had stopped by involvement with the paper.

For a discussion by Florenz Plassmann and his response to Ayres and Donohue, please see here.

DeFilippis and Hughes ignore that Donohue was actually forced to acknowledge serious errors in a paper that he wrote on concealed handgun laws (see this paper and also this one for more detailed discussions).

For other notes on Ayres and Donohue see here.

 

3) DeFilippis and Hughes claim, “An investigation uncovered that [Lott] had almost certainly fabricated an entire survey on defensive gun use.

On July 3rd, 1997, I suffered a computer hard disk crash that lost data for many different papers, many papers that I was working on with co-authors at the time. Co-authors and I spent much of the next two years putting the lost data together again.  All the data that went into my regressions on right-to-carry laws was replace.  One set of data involved a survey on defensive gun use, something that involved one paragraph in my book, More Guns, Less Crime.

As Ann Coulter wrote: “In 1997, a computer crash led to the loss of Lott’s underlying data. Fortunately, he had previously sent this data to his critics — professors Dan Black, Dan Nagin and Jens Ludwig. When Lott asked if they would mind returning it to him to restore his files, they refused.”

There are two other problems with the claim about the lost survey data.

— This lost data that They ignore evidence supporting the existence of the survey, which was lost in a hard drive crash.

A) Science requires replication. The survey, with the same questions and format, was redone in 2002. The redone, smaller survey produced similar results. That survey data are available at https://crimeresearch.org/data/.

B) The survey was used in a single paragraph in my book, More Guns, Less Crime. I argued that the simple defensive brandishing or warning shots are not news worthy. The higher the rate of defensive brandishing or warning shots, the easier it is to explain why the media is not biased when it doesn’t cover most defensive gun uses. If I wanted to show that the media was more biased, I should have used the surveys with lower defensive brandishing rates. I have also explained why the length of the time people are asked to recall events over can explain the difference in the four surveys on brandishing that have been done over the last twenty years (two designed by me and two by Gary Kleck).

C) Two people have come forward to say that they took the original survey (John Hamilton and David Gross). Professor Jeff Parker of George Mason University interviewed John Hamilton, a retired private detective in Tennessee. Parker also interviewed Hamilton’s sister, who reported being told contemporaneously by Hamilton that he had taken the survey.

David Gross, a former prosecutor in Minnesota, also took the survey. Gross’s statements confirmed many aspects of my 1997 survey (e.g., the number of questions, students conducting it, and the questions asked). .

Other people were able to confirm various other aspects of the survey, such as when it was conducted and that I talked to people at the time of the survey. I have also supplied my tax records from 1997, which show large payments for research assistants. Some have speculated that Hamilton and Gross took a 1999 survey by David Hemenway, but when Hemenway finally released his data, a decade later, it was possible to look at where those survey lived as well as their age, race, and gender and that information made it clear that neither Hamilton nor Gross could have taken their survey.

D) Many people knew of this hard disk crash because they were working with me on other projects, for which I also lost data.

— The source for DeFilippis’ and Hughes’ claims has been repeatedly caught altering documents. He has also not been particularly objective in the debate over gun laws (see here, here, and here).

 

4) DeFilippis and Hughes claim: “[Lott] was all but excommunicated from academia.

Lott currently ranks 28th worldwide among the hundreds of thousands of economists, business professors, law professors, and other academics in terms of the rate that his papers are downloaded on the Social Science Research Network.  Over the last year, Lott ranked 41st in the world.  The Crime Prevention Research Center not only has a prestigious Board of Academic Advisors, but my brand new book has received strong endorsements from many extremely prominent academics (some are also on our Board of Academic Advisors). Yet, if you want to know what it is like being a conservative in academia, you might want to read this about how Chicago Mayor Richard Daley put pressure on the University of Chicago to get me removed from the University.  Something similar happened when I was at the Yale Law School.  As to academic positions, I was at the University of Maryland up until June 2009.

“To paraphrase a once-famous commercial slogan, ‘When John R. Lott speaks, everyone listens.’ Or, at least they should when this leading expert on all matters gun control speaks out so provocatively and persuasively. In his new book, Lott delves into the myriad ways in which anti-gun ‘statistics’ and ‘research’ have been used to perpetrate utter falsehoods and misleading propaganda. If there is to be any intelligent, honest, and objective discussion of gun policy in the United States, then The War on Guns ought to be required reading.”

PROFESSOR CHARLES J. GOETZ, Joseph M. Hartfield Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Virginia School of Law

“John R. Lott is a role model for those who do scientific research on important problems. He is objective and logical. He uses the best evidence available—data from natural experiments on the effects of gun regulations—to compare the effects of alternative policies. He fully discloses his analysis, and responds to critics by conducting further research. As a result, his findings have persuaded many people. Lott’s scientific approach is the opposite of the advocacy research that fills many academic journals, and which the media delight in reporting. Lott’s The War on Guns exposes and explains the deceptions used by gun-control advocates. Those who want to live in a safer world will benefit from Lott’s findings. Of the many gun regulations to date, there are no scientific comparisons that have found a reduction in crime or death rates.”

PROFESSOR J. SCOTT ARMSTRONG, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“We should all thank and admire John Lott for single-handedly changing the debate on guns from ill-informed rhetoric attacking gun ownership to hard-headed empirical analysis that shows the benefits of allowing law abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. The War on Guns continues this debate by showing that the anti-gun lobby has spent millions of dollars making false and misleading claims about guns. Once again, John Lott provides careful and rigorous empirical analysis that undermines these claims. Kudos to John Lott for having the guts to take on the anti-gun lobby.”

—PROFESSOR WILLIAM M. LANDES, senior lecturer and Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Law & Economics, University of Chicago Law School

“John Lott is more responsible than anyone else for arguments that gun ownership in the U.S. increases safety and reduces crime. Arrayed against him are the entire public health establishment and much of the media. In this book, John carefully analyzes many of the arguments made against gun ownership—for example, there are more gun homicides and mass shootings in the U.S. than elsewhere, background checks reduce gun harms, “Stand Your Ground” laws harm African Americans and increase crime—and shows using both statistical and anecdotal evidence that they are incorrect. He also shows that wealthy opponents of gun ownership (such as Michael Bloomberg) finance much fallacious “public health” research on the effects of guns. Anyone interested in the gun debate should read this book, and opponents of gun ownership have an intellectual obligation to confront the arguments.”

PROFESSOR PAUL H. RUBIN, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Economics, Emory University

“John Lott’s new book, The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies, does just that. Lott deals with a wide variety of claims that question the value of firearms for self-defense, providing the analysis and facts the public needs to see through the distortions of gun control advocates. This is a valuable guide to a more balanced understanding of the issue.”

PROFESSOR JOYCE LEE MALCOLM, Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

“John Lott’s new book, The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies, is an indispensable source of facts, insights, and cogent argument. Anyone who wants to be informed on the gun control issue has to read this book.”

PROFESSOR CARLISLE E. MOODY, Professor of Economics, William and Mary

 

5) DeFilippis and Hughes assert: “A blogger revealed that Mary Rosh, an online commentator claiming to be a former student of Lotts who would frequently post about how amazing he was, was in fact John Lott himself.It was a family email account and I wasn’t the only one who posted comments.

As I posted well over a decade ago, the blogger Julian Sanchez misrepresented the events here.

 

6) DeFilippis and Hughes note:

“In February, he [Lott] made the claim before the Tennessee Senate. ‘Most people may not realize this, but the rate of mass public shootings in Europe is actually fairly similar to the rate in the United States,’ he said. ‘There is no statistically significant difference there, either in terms of the rate or fatalities.’

A couple of months earlier, he said something similar to the Washington Post, which quickly highlighted that his analysis was quite different from that of other experts in the field. As the Post noted, while Lott said the per capita rates of mass shootings in Europe and the United States were approximately the same, another researcher found the U.S. rate to be five times higher. The Post explained that the gulf between the results was due to Lott and the other researcher using different definitions.”

The average incident rate per capita for the 28 EU countries is 0.0602 with a 95% confidence Interval of .0257 to .09477. The US rate of 0.078 is higher than the EU rate, but the difference is not statistically different. The average fatality rate for the 28 EU countries is 0.114, with a 95% confidence Interval of -.0244 to .253. The US rate of 0.089 is lower than the EU rate, but again the difference is not statistically significantly.

In Chapter 7 in The War on Guns, I show that from 2009 through 2015 (the first seven years of Obama’s presidency), the fatality rate per million people was 0.58 in the EU and 0.62 in the US. The injury rate was 1.316 in the EU and 0.609 in the US.

Not that it matters, but the quote at the end of the first paragraph is incorrect. It should read “the rate of fatalities,” not “the rate or fatalities.”

 

7) DeFilippis and Hughes note: “Further, Lotts carefully crafted criteria to include an incident as a mass shooting is highly suspect. Lott goes to great lengths to exclude mass shootings that are the result of burglaries and gang violence, but he includes terrorist attacks.

As I explain in my book, The War on Guns, and elsewhere, I rely on the FBI definition of mass public shootings (p.67). Since my original research with Bill Landes in the late 1990s, I have excluded shootings involving other crimes. Whether the shootings were classified as terrorist attacks was irrelevant.

The FBI definition of mass public shootings excludes “shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence” or that were part of some other crime.33 The FBI also defines “public” places as “includ[ing] commercial areas (divided into malls, businesses open to pedestrian traffic, and businesses closed to pedestrian traffic), educational environments (divided into schools [pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade] and IHEs), open spaces, government properties (divided into military and other govern- ment properties), houses of worship, and healthcare facilities.”34

Mass public shootings rivet our attention on the news. In most cases, they are carried out for the purpose of attracting media attention. They occur in areas where it is relatively easy to kill a lot of people—places like schools, malls, and movie theaters.

For the original source, see the fourth paragraph on page 5 in this 2014 report by the FBI:

Specifically, shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence—pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public— were not included in this study. . . .

Also page 12 in the section marked “locations.”

The FBI identified 11 separate incident location categories31 when seeking to identify the primary locations where the public was most at risk during an incident. These location categories include commercial areas (divided into malls, businesses open to pedestrian traffic, and businesses closed to pedestrian traf c), educational environments (divided into schools [pre-kindergarten through 12th grade] and IHEs), open spaces, government proper- ties (divided into military and other government properties), residences, houses of worship, and health care facilities. . . .

DeFilippis and Hughes write: “This year alone, there have already been 233 mass shootings, where four or more victims were shot, leaving 310 dead and 930 injured.” These cases, while tragic, were largely gang shootings or attacks that were part of some other crime.

Curbing gang violence is important, and it could be done pretty simply: legalize drugs or stop enforcing the existing laws.  Absent legalization or demand disappearing, drug gangs will keep fighting to control turf.  Just as gangs can get a hold of illegal drugs, they can get a hold of the weapons that they use to protect that valuable property. But whether drugs should be legalized is another topic.  The point here is simply that gun laws are not to blame for drug gang violence.  Drug gang violence and mass public shootings tend to have very different causes. The latter attacks are typically designed to kill or wound as many people as possible.  It doesn’t make much sense to lump together the two types of gun violence.

DeFilippis and Hughes note: “This choice means that while the Texas biker gang gunfight last summer is excluded in his statistics, the November Paris attacks, which accounted for more than one-third of Europe’s mass shooting fatalities, are included.”

Yet, DeFilippis and Hughes reference to what they themselves note as a “Texas biker gan gunfight” clearly doesn’t fit the FBI definition.  To exclude all four of the Paris attacks last year would mean that one would have to exclude the Orlando, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, and other attacks in the US.  Yet, the key comparison for these terrorist attacks and those at Newtown is that the killers want to kill as many people as possible and to obtain news media attention.

8) Econ Journal Watch paper

Econ Journal Watch originally accepted the paper, but at the last moment in September 2015, the month that the paper was supposed to appear in the online publication, additional work was requested requiring additional work. After that disagreements arose between the editor and myself that spread out over 5 months, and the paper wasn’t published. I forgot to go back and remove the note that the paper was forthcoming.  For those interested in seeing whether I needed one more line on my Vita, here is a copy of it.

 

9) Did Moody, Marvell, Zimmerman, and Alemante (MMZA) misinterpret their own results (paper available here)? No.

DeFilippis and Hughes claim:

In their paper “The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws on Crime: An Exercise in Replication,” Carlisle Moody, a CPRC board member, and three co-authors examine the impact of right-to-carry (RTC) laws on violent crime and critique an earlier study by John Donohue and his colleagues.

Donohue and his colleagues had concluded that the most significant effect of concealed carry laws is an increase in aggravated assault, but Moody et al. reported that: “the most robust result, confirmed using both county and state data, is that RTC laws significantly reduce murder. There is no robust, consistent evidence that RTC laws have any significant effect on other violent crimes, including assault.” This result fits well with Lott’s long established hypothesis that concealed carry significantly decreases crime, and the authors interpret it as a direct repudiation of Donohue’s results.

But there’s just one problem. Moody and his co-authors misread their own analysis.”

DeFilippis and Hughes seem to accuse a lot of people of deliberately deceiving others.  But DeFilippis and Hughes don’t seem to understand what is meant by “robust results, confirmed using both county and state data.” MMZA weren’t claiming that there wasn’t a single result showing a significant effect for aggravated assaults. What they were saying is that the results weren’t consistent across different estimates.

 

10) DeFilippis and Hughes claim other mistakes by Lott “allies”:

As Ian Ayres and Donohue described in a brutal takedown of Lott and his allies’ research, there were at least two previous cases where Lott used this tactic. The first time, Lott presented a series of graphs to the National Academy of Sciences, which David Mustard, one of Lott’s allies, then decided to include in a comment for a 2003 Brookings Institute book. When Donohue demonstrated the results were the product of fatal coding errors, Lott’s ally was forced to withdraw those graphs from the book. Also in 2003, Lott supported (and initially co-authored) a paper appearing in the Stanford Law Review by Plassman and Whitley that also appeared to support the more guns, less crime hypothesis. Again, Donohue proved that their results were based on coding errors, undermining the authors’ central claim.

The discussion here regarding the Stanford Law Review paper by Plassmann and Whitley simply repeats what DeFilippis and Hughes already mentioned (see point 2 above). Repeating this point a second time doesn’t make it any more accurate.

As to the claim about David Mustard, there was a minor mistake, but it did not alter his results. The editors of the Brookings Institute book were gun control supporters and would not allow Mustard to make the simple corrections that he asked to make.

 

11) DeFilippis and Hughes’ claims about gun-free zones are very confusing. They point to two cases in which I was supposedly wrong about permitted concealed handguns being banned. Those two cases were the Umpqua Community College and Yoyito Cafe-Restaurant shootings. They write:

After the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June, Lott published a piece in which he wrote, “Since at least as far back as 1950, all but three U.S. mass public shootings (with more than three fatalities) have occurred in places where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms.”

This claim has been a staple for Lott, who has repeated it in various forms in numerous articles, usually phrasing it as areas “where citizens were banned from carrying guns.” To support his contention, Lott cites his own report analyzing different aspects of mass shootings.

However, what Lott repeats in public is quite different from what his report actually shows. While Lott’s public statements equate gun-free zones with areas that prohibit concealed carry, his mass shooting report expands the gun-free zone definition to include areas where Lott feels it might be difficult to obtain a permit or where there might not be many permit holders despite being able to legally carry. Indeed, Lott admits in the report that more than six mass public shootings in the past six years have occurred in areas that legally allow citizens to carry their firearms, a direct contradiction of his public statements.

And not only does Lott mischaracterize his own research, but the research itself is also filled with significant errors.

Umpqua Community College shooting:

For those questioning whether the community college is a gun-free zone, here is a statement from the recent, past President of the college. From the New York Daily News (October 3, 2015):

But Joe Olson, the former president of Umpqua, said he decided to keep the campus gun-free last year after a campus-wide debate. . . .

The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene, Oregon has this from the Interim community college President Rita Calvin (link broken):

Interim community college President Rita Calvin said security officers are on campus around the clock, but are not armed. The campus is a gun-free zone. . . .

Yoyito Cafe-Restaurant shooting:

Bloomberg’s Everytown group mentions that people with permitted concealed handguns aren’t allowed to carry permitted concealed handguns in restaurants that get 50 percent of their revenue from alcohol. However, Everytown didn’t actually check whether that was the case for this restaurant, which at the time was apparently a very popular venue for parties serving alcohol.  If Bloomberg’s group had checked, they would have found that it was a gun-free zone. The organization of the bar in the center of the restaurant is also important for this determination.

 

12) The Taylor Woolrich story.

DeFilippis and Hughes’ claim:

“Dear Dartmouth, I am one of your students, I am being stalked, please let me carry a gun to protect myself” read the headline of a piece on Fox News in August 2014.

The first person account was a harrowing story about teenager Taylor Woolrich’s desperate attempts to escape and protect herself from a persistent stalker who was ruining her life. The article blasted Dartmouth for not allowing her to carry a gun, and noted that carrying a gun was the only way she could remain truly safe.

The story quickly went viral, and is one that’s still brought up by right-wing gun activists. But Woolrich didn’t actually write the article. . . .

Taylor Woolrich wrote up a several thousand word description of what had occurred in her stalking case. She didn’t want the op-ed to be simply her personal story. As an economics major, she also wanted references to empirical studies. So, she and I worked together on a piece that was published in the Daily Caller. I included references to empirical work and helped cut down the piece to the length of an op-ed.

Here is what was posted on the Crime Prevention Research Center website after the above Buzzfeed story was published in August 2015.

Last August, Taylor Woolrich was the first speaker at our conference for Students for Concealed Carry. Her tragic story about a woman who was being stalked and her desire to be able to defend herself received a lot of media coverage. In a piece at Buzzfeed last night and today, there is a story up about how John Lott supposedly put pressure on Taylor Woolrich to have an op-ed at Fox News. From Buzzfeed:

[beginning of quote] Lott and Rebekah Riley, who was CPRC’s director of communications at the time but no longer works there, had encouraged Woolrich to tell her story to journalists — but, they say, warned her of the implications of telling it. On the day of the conference, Woolrich also booked an interview on her own with a reporter from the BBC. Later, when she told Lott about the BBC, he became “extremely, inappropriately pushy,” she says, “controlling and kind of snappy.” Woolrich chalked it up to Lott disagreeing with the BBC’s political leaning. (Lott denies this and says he would have been “extremely happy” for Woolrich to get such a “big hit” as the BBC.) Taylor decided that when she returned to California, she would cut off contact with him.

Then Fox News decided to publish the op-ed after all, but only, according to Lott, if it came directly from Woolrich. They needed it immediately. When she said she didn’t have time to write a new piece from her first-person perspective, Lott offered to do it instead and Woolrich agreed. “I don’t know if I should just say yes and not piss him off,” she remembers worrying.

The piece incorporated elements of her talk at the conference, but otherwise it was the essentially the same article written by Lott, which is still online at the Daily Caller. “It’s his op-ed,” she says. “Word for word, except the chunks that match what’s said in my speech.” The references to Lott’s disputed research? Not hers. The link to the Amazon sales page for his book? Not hers. The headline? “Dear Dartmouth, I am one of your students, I am being stalked, please let me carry a gun to protect myself.”

“I think his first priority was his cause,” she says. “He saw me as a really great asset.” . . .

“It’s not like John Lott held a gun to my head and told me to talk to the media,” Woolrich says. “I wanted to talk to the media, if it could mean something positive. But I wanted to talk to the media about stalking.” In response to the flurry of interview requests, she changed her number and did not return Lott’s or Riley’s messages. . . . [end quote]

But Buzzfeed’s writer, Madison Pauly, and editor Anita Badejo, simply ignored text exchanges Lott sent them that he had with Taylor — and those exchanges tell a different story from what their piece presents. The texts show that Taylor appeared enthusiastic to have Lott’s help in getting her story out, and that she approved the story to run on Fox News. Just a few of Buzzfeed’s omissions and errors:

Buzzfeed didn’t mention Taylor’s text to Lott on August 6th, in which she wrote “I am totally okay with you submitting it [the Fox News article].”

Buzzfeed ignored that Taylor wrote Lott texts such as “I would love to get my story out there and be able to turn this whole mess into some sort of positive” and “I am happy that NYC [media appearance] is working out!”

Buzzfeed ignored emails in which Taylor wrote Lott things like, “thanks again for all your work on this” — in reference to the additions he had made to her draft op-ed.

Even worse, Buzzfeed’s Pauly and Badejo committed journalistic malpractice by failing to inform readers that what Taylor told them changed over time. When reporter Madison Pauley first emailed Lott, she wrote him indignantly, “Richard Bennett victimized Taylor by taking control away from her [Taylor]. If, as Taylor says, she neither wrote nor approved the final version of the op-ed that bears her byline, more control was taken from her —control over the way she tells her story. This would mean that a victim’s story was spun, without her consent, for political/personal gain and falsely attributed to her.”

After Lott sent Pauly the text Taylor had sent him (“I am totally okay with you submitting it”), Pauly wrote, “I’ll get back to you after I think about this for a few days.”

Lott then didn’t hear anything for months, until this week, when Buzzfeed editor Anita Badejo reached out. After Lott told her about the text in which Taylor said “I am totally okay with you submitting it,” Badejo responded to Lott that Taylor “completely refutes that she sent the text in which she gave you permission to submit the article, and questions its authenticity.”

After Lott offered to show the text to Badejo in person, or have a tech expert of their choosing come to Lott’s office and verify that it is real, Badejo then insisted that it was not relevant.  Yet, in the version of the article that finally appeared, Taylor’s story changed dramatically: she now claimed that she had given permission for the op-ed, but that she had done it because she did “not [want to] piss [Lott] off.”

Not relevant? Couldn’t Buzzfeed leave that to their readers to decide?

Lott worked with Taylor in good faith to help get her story out. It is a shame, but no surprise, that Buzzfeed sees the need to paint an organization that did its best to help her get her speak out as the villain. It’s worth considering: If, a year from now, Taylor were to change her mind again and be dissatisfied with the way Buzzfeed handled things; would it be fair to say that Buzzfeed used her as a tool to try to discredit people they don’t like? No, it would not — yet that is what Buzzfeed is doing to Lott here.

Buzzfeed certainly has an axe to grind. In their article, they underplay Lott’s previous interactions with Jonah Perretti, the founder and CEO of Buzzfeed. Perretti had impersonated Lott during 2003, setting up a website “AskJohnLott” and sending out a lot of emails under Lott’s name that pretended Lott had changed his mind on gun issues. After being sued for the impersonation, Perretti issued an apology, took down the website, and also took down a similar site where he was impersonating another person, Jeff Goldblatt.

There are many other errors in the piece, but we hope this incident will at least give the public a better idea of how Buzzfeed and its founder like to operate.

 

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