Will there be a reckoning?
North Carolina reporters swooned over the “nonpartisan” Princeton Gerrymandering Project after the group, led by Dr. Sam Wang, gave Republican-proposed legislative maps an “F” rating.
They did this despite major red flags that were easy to find for those who bothered to look.
Dr. Wang actively solicited campaign donations for Democratic legislative candidates in North Carolina. The John Locke Foundation, a conservative thinktank, printed a well-sourced description of Dr. Wang’s arbitrary “algorithms.” Dr. Wang’s estimation that a “neutral” Congressional map would produce an 8-8 outcome differed enormously from the analysis of Dr. Jowei Chen, North Carolina Democrats’ premier witness in redistricting litigation.
But North Carolina reporters pressed on, perhaps because they could use the imprimatur of an Ivy League university to confirm their priors and assail state Republicans.
And a state court examining North Carolina’s proposed redistricting maps even hired Dr. Wang as a nonpartisan “expert.” Repeated and flattering media reports about Dr. Wang’s work surely didn’t hurt the court’s decision to choose him.
Then today happened. An explosive report says Princeton University is investigating Dr. Wang for “manipulating data to achieve the outcome he wanted.”
A person who reportedly worked with Dr. Wang at Princeton said, “He’d fudge the numbers to get his way. He had an agenda. He was good at hiding it when he had to, but it was clear Sam wanted Democrats to win and he was willing to cheat to make that happen.”
Thus reveals the folly of trusting so-called “experts” to be all-knowing and impartial angels. North Carolina reporters bought what Dr. Wang was selling because they ignored the red flags. They refused to be skeptics.
Their uncritical reporting surely contributed to Dr. Wang’s selection by the court as a purported expert to assist in redrawing the state’s maps – a major, highly impactful position.
This is just one report, and surely more information will be forthcoming.
But it should prompt a reckoning for reporters, judges, everybody: There are no unicorns in politics. There are no impartial, apolitical “experts” in politics. Be skeptical, especially when you have good reason to be.