The Washington Post recently found itself in the position of having to issue a significant correction after columnist Jennifer Rubin relied on erroneous census data to criticize Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis.
In her opinion piece published on Friday, the liberal columnist initially claimed, “DeSantis likes to brag that more people are moving to Florida than ever. Not so fast. ‘An estimated 674,740 people reported that their permanent address changed from Florida to another state in 2021.'” However, the U.S. Census data actually revealed that more people moved into Florida than any other state during that year.
Rubin had referenced a flawed Business Insider story that had mistakenly interchanged the number of people leaving the state during the pandemic with the number of people moving into the state during the same period.
Following criticism from social media users who pointed out her mistake, The Washington Post was compelled to admit that Rubin had “misstated” the figures.
The Post’s correction, issued the next day, stated, “A previous version of this article misstated Floridians’ state-to-state migration in 2021. According to the Census Bureau, more people moved into Florida than any other state that year. This version has been corrected.”
It is worth noting that Rubin’s column came just three days after Business Insider itself acknowledged that it had “got it wrong” in its reporting of more people leaving Florida than entering it during the pandemic. Initially, the outlet had claimed that 674,740 residents had left the state, surpassing the figures for California and New York.
After members of Governor DeSantis’ team called out Business Insider on Twitter, the outlet admitted its mistake and revised the headline to reflect the accurate information: “We got it wrong: More people moved out of New York and California than Florida in 2021.”
In response to the criticism, The Washington Post faced a barrage of backlash over the weekend for allowing Rubin to base her piece on flawed data, attacking DeSantis and the GOP leadership in Florida.
Charles Cooke of The National Review took to Twitter, sharing screenshots of Rubin’s error and the revised Business Insider article. He wrote, “In which Jennifer Rubin writes a piece in The Washington Post on Friday that is based around the massive mistake that Business Insider made—and then corrected—on Tuesday. ‘Does she have editors?’ was just emphatically answered.”
Alongside the correction issued on Saturday, The Washington Post removed Rubin’s assertion that more Floridians had left the state than any other state in the nation. The original article stated, “That’s more than any other state, including New York or California, the two states that have received the most attention for outbound migration during the pandemic,” according to the American Community Survey released in June, which tracked state-by-state migration.
The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of factual accuracy in journalism and the need for thorough fact-checking to avoid spreading misinformation or misrepresenting data.