I hadn't been paying much attention to economist John R. Lott's defamation lawsuit against Freakonomist Steven D. Levitt: I don't like lawsuits. But now I've finally read the two 2005 emails at the heart of one count of Lott's suit. I'm sure I don't understand all the details of the situation, but they seem pretty eye-opening.
They were between an economist named John McCall and Levitt, and they touch upon the October 2001 issue of the
From: John McCall
Subject: Freakonomics note yesterday to you
To: steve levitt
I went to the website you recommended -- have not gone after the round table proceedings yet -- I also found the following citations -- have not read any of them yet, but it appears they all replicate Lott's research. The Journal of Law and Economics is not chopped liver.
Have you read through any of these?
John McCall PhD
From: slevitt@[deleted for anti-spam purposes]
Date: Wed May 25, 2005 9:18:28 PM US/Central
To: John McCall
Subject: Re: Freakonomics note yesterday to you
It was not a peer refereed edition of the Journal. For $15,000 he was able to buy an issue and put in only work that supported him. My best friend was the editor and was outraged the press let Lott do this.
The Chronicle of Higher Education now writes:
"Mr. Levitt's letter of clarification, which was included in Friday's filing, offers a doozy of a concession. In his 2005 message, Mr. Levitt told Mr. McCall that "it was not a peer-refereed edition of the Journal." But in his letter of clarification, Mr. Levitt writes: "I acknowledge that the articles that were published in the conference issue were reviewed by referees engaged by the editors of the JLE. In fact, I was one of the peer referees."
"Mr. Levitt's letter also concedes that he had been invited to present a paper at the 1999 conference. (He did not do so.) That admission undermines his e-mail message's statement that Mr. Lott had "put in only work that supported him."
"In his letter of clarification to Mr. McCall, Mr. Levitt said, "At the time of my May 2005 e-mails to you, I knew that scholars with varying opinions had been invited to participate in the 1999 conference and had been informed that their papers would be considered for publication in what became the conference issue."
If Dr. Levitt wishes an opportunity to further clarify what has emerged so far of his letter of clarification, he is welcome to post in my comments.
Update: Mario Delgado posts some relevant information in a comment on the Deltoid blog, including a quote from a participant in the conference: "A participant in the conference told The Chronicle last year that Mr. Levitt's characterization of the issue as not peer-refereed was an exaggeration but not an outrageous untruth."