Paul Krugman, Professor Emeritus of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School, has come under fire in the past couple days for tweeting about an outbreak of cholera in Puerto Rico that has since been proven without basis.
Krugman's first tweet, sent out early in the morning on Sept. 30, went viral, garnering over 32,000 likes and 14,000 retweets.
He tweeted, “Cholera. In a US territory. Among US citizens, In the 21st century. Heckuva job, Trumpie.” The tweet references a widely derided comment made by President George W. Bushn in 2005 about then-head FEMA official Michael Brown; in that tweet, Bush had written that Brown was doing "a heck of a job" in responding to Hurricane Katrina.
Krugman replied to his own tweet the next day to partially retract his previous allegation.
“OK, cholera not confirmed. Conjunctivitis yes; lack of clean water (situation worsening, not improving) makes it a risk. But not certain,” he tweeted on Sept. 30. This reply earned far fewer interactions, garnering around 1,600 likes and 500 retweets — far from the “viral” attribution he earned with his first tweet.
An op-ed columnist for The New York Times, Krugman has 3.5 million Twitter followers. His column for the Times, entitled “The Conscience of a Liberal,” as well as his generally liberal persona, have made him a frequent target for conservative outlets, who have criticized him in the past for spreading "fake news." True to form, recent stories in conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Blaze have slammed Krugman for his inaccurate tweet this week.
“A left-winger too often blinded by his rabid partisanship, Krugman is most famous for being wrong about almost everything, especially when it comes to economic predictions,” wrote Breitbart’s John Nolte.
In a tip to the ‘Prince,’ an anonymous professor wrote to express concern that a colleague would share such misinformation on Twitter.
“He is destroying his credibility by spreading falsehoods on social media,” the writer said. “I have a personal and professional interest. My father went to Princeton and I believe as academics, we have an obligation to strive for truth ... Facts matter. Credible sources matter.”
Politifact, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fact-checking political statements, documented the episode, noting that the Center for Disease Control tweeted in response that it anticipated no cases of cholera in Puerto Rico, where Krugman seemed to be referring in his initial tweet. In response to Politifact's coverage, Krugman explained that he got the information for his own tweet from an editor at Vanity Fair, Kurt Eichenwald, who has yet to retract his own tweet, as of publication.
Krugman was a professor with a joint appointment in economics and the Wilson School at the University for 15 years; he left in 2015 to join the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2008, while at the University, for his work on international trade with increasing returns to scale.