Does Being a Pundit Ever Mean Having to Say You’re Sorry?

It’s been said that being a pundit means never having to say you’re sorry. That’s probably more true than not, given that there are few penalties for being spectacularly wrong about the big things.

But that doesn’t mean pundits can’t decide to tell readers that they made a mistake. And that’s exactly what Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen did today (10/22/13) .

 “The early denunciations of Snowden now seem both over the top and beside the point,” Cohen writes. He should know–he wrote one of them. And now he says his initial reaction was “just plain wrong.”

Cohen’s earlier piece (6/11/13) called Snowden a “self-proclaimed martyr for our civil liberties,” and predicted that he would “go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.” Cohen closed with this:

Everything about Edward Snowden is ridiculously cinematic. He is not paranoiac; he is merely narcissistic. He jettisoned a girlfriend, a career and, undoubtedly, his personal freedom to expose programs that were known to our elected officials and could have been deduced by anyone who has ever Googled anything. History will not record him as “one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers.” History is more likely to forget him.

A few months later, Cohen is telling readers that “my mouth is agape at the sheer size of these data-gathering programs.” Snowden is no longer some cross-dressing martyr; he is “an authentic whistleblower” who might be compared to Paul Revere; he’s even “a bit like John Brown, the zealot who intensely felt the inhumanity of slavery and broke the law in an attempt to end the practice.”

Well, that’s something. Cohen is to be credited for re-evaluating his work, and doing something to clear up the record. Here’s to hoping that some day he might do the same thing about his support for unconstitutional stop-and-frisk police harassment. But in the meantime, this is a remarkable turnaround that deserves to be noted.



About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.