First, a recap and a time line on the Kopel/Lott/Reynolds attacks on Steve Levitt:
- 16 Aug 2001
- Glenn Reynolds claims that the NAS panel is "stacked" with "ardent supporters of gun control", especially Levitt.
- 29 Aug 2001
- Dave Kopel and Glenn Reynolds write an article in National Review Online where they claim that most of the people on the panel are anti-gun and that Levitt has been described as "rabidly antigun". They offer no evidence to support their attack on Levitt.
- 29 Aug 2001
- Levitt emails Reynolds, denying the charge, pointing to this op-ed as evidence that he is not rabidly anti-gun. Reynolds conceals the identity of the "scholar" who accused Levitt of being "rabidly antigun".
- 31 Aug 2001
- Fox News has a story about the attacks on the panel, quoting Lott as saying "It's not a balanced panel" and Kopel charging that the real intent of the committee was to debunk Lott's work.
- 18 Sep 2002
- Reynolds repeats his attack on the NAS panel. Brad DeLong vigorously refutes Reynold's attack on Levitt.
- 19 Sep 2002
- Mark Kleiman comments on Reynolds' unethical behaviour:
I still think the NRO story was shabby journalism: it made a wild, personally damaging charge based on a single anonymous source, it failed to check that charge with its subject to allow a comment, and it misrepresented the document it quoted from by selective quotation and actual misquotation. Nor was it ever updated with links to the denial and the evidence supporting it.
Reynolds has a bizarre response that completely ignores all of Delong's and Kleiman's arguments:
As a former official in the Clinton Administration, surely DeLong isn't arguing that only people's buddies are entitled to discuss questions of whether they might be biased or not. He should know better than that.
(Err, discussing it is fine, Glenn, but you should either offer actual evidence in support of your claim or retract it.)
- 10 Mar 2003
- Lott's book The Bias Against Guns is published. On page 54 he writes (referring to the Kopel-Reynolds article):
Another panel member, Steve Levitt, an economist, has been described in media reports as being "rabidly anti-gun."
He goes on to falsely accuse Levitt of writing his op-ed to cover up his "strong opposition to guns" and misrepresent his discussion with Pepper about Lott. (For details see here.)
Now, who was the anonymous accuser whose identity Reynolds concealed? Well, who do we know who makes anonymous personal attacks on academics like this or this? And who would have a vested interested in keeping someone highly skilled in econometrics off the panel, lest their own firearms research relying on econometrics be debunked? And whose research on the abortion-crime link did Levitt describe (on June 19, 2001, shortly before the anonymous attack on him) as "just garbage"? And since the "rabidly antigun" charge has proven to be false, who do we know who has a habit of making things up?
Levitt informs me that he is almost certain that the anonymous character assassin is Lott. I asked both Reynolds and Kopel to confirm or deny this and neither one denied it. I think we are entitled to conclude that the character assassin is Lott.
It was clearly wrong for Kopel and Reynolds to print Lott's smear without telling their readers of their source's interest in the matter. And it was dishonest of Lott to refer to the Kopel-Reynolds article to make it appear that there were other people who were saying that Levitt was "rabidly antigun" when, in fact, Lott was the only source of the claim.