Thursday, September 28, 2006

Larry Sabato loses credibility with Allen accusation

Dr. Larry Sabato, a political science professor from the University of Virginia, has been a respected pundit for a number of years now. He has always been known for his keen political insight from a purely scientific standpoint, and I've never been able to detect his specific ideology because he has traditionally been objective when analyzing political races. He may not always be right, but his analyses have usually been well-founded.

That is why I report with great sadness that Sabato has officially lost his credibility as an impartial analyst of political races, because he's getting involved with a different type of "race". Powerline has more:
I wrote about Salon's story on Senator Allen's alleged use of a racial epithet while Senator Allen was a University of Virginia undergraduate in "The macaca offensive." I sarcastically commented on what I thought was the weakness of the story. The following day I noted the personal attestation of Professor Larry Sabato on Hardball supporting the gist of the Salon story in "The macaca offensive, take 2." On Hardball Professor Sabato stated: "I'm simply going to stay with what I know is the case and the fact is he did use the n-word, whether he's denying it or not."

I followed up that post yesterday in "Sabato's sabotage," including a reader's email correspondence with Professor Sabato. Based on the email corresopndence, I commented that, contrary to his assertion on Hardball, Professor Sabato was merely "passing on the 'hearsay' of unidentified third partiies as of his own knowledge." My comments yesterday drew a response from Professor Sabato's spokesman, Matt Smyth:
I think there might be some confusion based on the contents of your post; Larry’s comments on Hardball were not based on hearsay, but rather on the public comments of individuals like Ken Shelton, as well as others who have come forward since and stated their firsthand experience. Larry was unable to reveal the extent of this during the Hardball interview because of his promise to the reporters who were breaking the rest of the story the next day. As an analyst, he was satisfied with the sources’ credibility and the journalistic research that went into their claims, and based his assertion on that. It seems apparent that the individuals who came forward after the Hardball interview substantiated his assertion further---and not call it into question. If you could update your post to reflect that, we would appreciate it.



Matthew V. Smyth
Director of Communications
Center for Politics
University of Virginia
I wrote Matt back and stated that I would be happy to post his message in its entirety on our site as a separate item. I added:
[Y]ou don't seem to understand the concept of "hearsay." The point is that [Sabato] made the declaration [on Hardball] of his personal knowledge. This turns out to be false.

Beyond that: What grounds did [Sabato] have to opine on anyone's credibility? Does [Sabato] know the names of Salon's two unidentified sources? Did the Salon reporter share the names with [Sabato]? Whom are you talking about as having come forward? What investigation has [Sabato] performed on the sources' credibility?
Matt responded:
Larry is not a journalist, and as a result he does not investigate these types of stories; he simply was contacted by the sources and forwarded them to members of the media. It is up to the journalists who pursue a story to perform the appropriate research. If they are not comfortable with the accuracy of the information, then it is up to the editors not to publish it.

Aside from that, Larry is not opining on anyone's credibility and he's not telling anyone what they should or shouldn't believe. At no point did he say that he had firsthand knowledge of the language in question; all he did was assert that it did happen, and he's either right or wrong. He has a long career behind him and he wouldn't still be around if he wasn't right much more often than he was wrong.

The other sources that have come forward with information about the stories are Chris Taylor, George Korte, George Beam, Doug Jones, Ellen Hawkins, and others---all with different types of information.
The names provided at the conclusion of Matt's second message include those such as Doug Jones and George Korte who have come to Senator Allen's defense. Is Sabato vouching for their credibility too? Matt's message suggests that Professor Sabato has become the hub of the race-based stories on Senator Allen that have mysteriously appeared over the past few days. What is going on here? At the Allen campaign blog, Jon Henke suggests that what is going on is "a coordinated character assassination."
Sabato says the following in an interview on Moonbat Matthews' little-watched show Hardball: "Yes, you are incorrect in what you just said. I never said that I personally heard Allen use racial slurs. What I have said and have made clear is that the individual who's came forward in the New York Times and other publications such as The New Republic contacted me quite some time ago, at least some in some cases and they made the allegation, they provided circumstances and evidence that is credible. ... I'm simply going to stay with what I know is the case and the fact is he did use the n-word, whether he's denying it or not."

In other words, Sabato never heard Allen say it, and has instead relied on what other people have told him that Allen said...which, by definition, is "hearsay"! You would think a respected political scientist like Sabato understands the simple meanings of simple words like "hearsay", and that you cannot say that an incident you did not witness and that is being disputed by several people is necessarily a "fact"!

Did Allen use the racial slur in question? Who knows? It's a matter of "he said, he said", which by definition cannot be a proven "fact", right? Here's a question I'd like to ask: "Does it matter what a college kid said in the ignorance of his youth?" I mean, Bubba wrote a letter as a college kid whereby he penned his "loathe" of the military, but the left told us to forget about what some Arkansas college kid had to say way back when. Yet now, it's all of a sudden an important issue what a Virginia college kid said way back when?

Is it fair game to examine Allen's (alleged) utterance from yesteryear because it may provide some insight into his way of thinking? I guess it would be a fair question, if the ones asking it weren't the same people who felt it was unfair to ask the same question of Bubba in 1992. Bubba's disdain for the military was so eloquently stated in his snot-nosed letter in college, and that disdain for the soldiers carried on through his presidency. But it wasn't fair to delve into the writings of an ill-informed college student, right? No, it wasn't...unless he was Republican.