Historian Niall Ferguson's high-profile hatchet job on Obama ruffles US feathers

Glasgow-born academic accused of 'unethical commentary' for Newsweek analysis

Niall Ferguson is not a man who shies away from controversy. Nor, as a Scottish professor of history who jumped ship from Oxford to Harvard eight years ago and who said earlier this year that he was permanently leaving the UK for America's superior "quality of intellectual life in my field", is he a man who is frightened of expressing forthright opinions.

This time, however, those opinions have ruffled some heavyweight feathers on Professor Ferguson's preferred side of the Atlantic.

Professor Ferguson, once an adviser to the 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain and who delivered the prestigious BBC Reith Lectures earlier this year, has stirred up a hornets nest with his cover story for Newsweek under the headline: "Hit the road, Barack."

The article asks if President Obama has delivered on his promises, "and the sad truth is he has not". It goes on to allege that the president has broken campaign promises, and criticises his stimulus package, his foreign policy record and his healthcare reform.

The piece provoked a sharp response from commentators in the US, among them Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who has crossed swords with Professor Ferguson in the past and yesterday accused the Briton of "unethical commentary" and "deliberately misleading readers".

Professor Krugman's response, for the New York Times, slammed the Newsweek piece for its "multiple errors and misrepresentations" adding: "We're not talking about ideology or even economic analysis here – just a plain misrepresentation of the facts."

He was particularly exercised about Professor Ferguson's comments on Mr Obama's healthcare reform, saying it would not increase the deficit as Professor Ferguson wrote, but in fact do the opposite.

Last night the spat showed no sign of abating, with Professor Ferguson responding: "You know you have hit the target when Paul Krugman takes time out from his hiking holiday".

But Professor Krugman has not been alone in his critique of the Glasgow-born academic, who once described himself as a "fully paid-up member of the neo-imperialist gang" and is known for his defence of the British empire.

By last night a series of publications were rushing to pick holes in the Newsweek article. Several correspondents at The Atlantic took Professor Ferguson to task, including associate editor Matthew O'Brien who carried out an extensive "fact-check" on the piece. Matthew Yglesias, Slate's business and economics correspondent, said Professor Ferguson's attack on Mr Obama's time in office was "so comprehensive as to be completely incoherent".

Fighting talk: Ferguson's 'facts'

"The President pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2tn over the 2012-22 period."

"He promised to 'build the roads and bridges, the electric grids, and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together'. He promised to 'restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost'. And he promised to 'transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age'. Unfortunately the president's scorecard on every single one of those bold pledges is pitiful."

"The question confronting the country nearly four years later is not who was the better candidate four years ago. It is whether the winner has delivered on his promises. And the sad truth is that he has not".

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering