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NYT fires blanks at IRI

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a cheap hit-job against the International Republican Institute (a mostly-government-funded NGO that engages in democracy promotion in civil society staffed primarily by Republicans). The allegation is in the second paragraph:

As tensions mounted, Kenneth Flottman sat in Nairobi and grew increasingly frustrated. He had in his hands the results of an exit poll, paid for by the United States government, that supported the initial returns favoring the challenger, Raila Odinga.

People who followed the election will recall that the results were contested. There were riots. Over 1,000 people died in street protests and the crackdown.  Eventually Odinga was declared the winner as part of a power-sharing deal. The gist of the story is that if IRI had released their exit poll showing that the IRI-supported challenger had won, then perhaps the deaths could have been prevented. The only “on the record” source in the NYT piece, as the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb notes, is Mr. Flottman. And the NYT piece suggests that his voice was uniformly in support of releasing the poll. Turns out it wasn’t so.

IRI sent a letter to the NYT, which was editted and published. But check out the removed paragraph, courtesy of IRI:

The article quotes liberally from emails by former IRI employee Ken Flottman to buttress the charge. Not mentioned are other Flottman emails in which he agrees with our decision not to release the poll because we believed the data was flawed.

Now why would the NYT not print that paragraph or cite those emails? Well, Goldfarb has the text of some of those emails after the jump.

One email from Flottman actually recommends recoding the raw poll data before releasing it:

According to one email dated January 25, 2008, Flottman wrote his superiors in Washington that “I am inclined to think that recoding the whole thing from scratch here would be the way to go.”

Furthermore, it turns out that this recoding mattered:

It took nearly eight months for IRI to release the results of their poll, and they did so only after all the data had been reentered and audited by two independent firms. The new result put Odinga’s win at 6 points, meaning that the initial result (an 8 point margin) was outside the poll’s 1.35 percent margin of error.

It appears that the NYT is advocating that IRI release a poll that it correctly suspected was problematic. Would releasing those results have saved lives, as now Prime Minister Odinga suggests? Perhaps. Would releasing a bogus poll to impact post-election rioting have poored gasoline on a very dangerous situation? Almost certainly. And why, nearly 12 months later is the New York Times questioning why a then-suspected and now-proven-to-be-questionable poll was not released? I don’t get it.

Does the NYT make a distinction and obey journalistic standards when they can take a cheap shot at Republicans? Definitely not.

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