Emily Heffter at the Seattle Times just published a story falsely alleging that Darcy Burner's claims of a Harvard degree in economics aren't true. The story is literally made up out of whole cloth. Burner has a degree in computer science and economics from Harvard, as her website says. Having gone to Harvard, I know how this works. You get a degree under one department, take classes in another, write a thesis joining the two, and that thesis is reviewed by professors from both departments. It's actually much harder to get a joint degree, but the registrar shows a degree only from one department because Harvard doesn't have minors. In fact, economics is a fairly easy degree to get, while computer science and economics takes a lot more work.
Heffter took this to mean that Burner made up her Harvard degree, and misquotes Harvard officials to prove the story. Heffter quotes Harvard computer science professor Harry Lewis, who supervised the computer science students when Burner attended Harvard.
"She doesn't have a degree in economics," he said. "It's a specialty within the computer science degree that she has."
Here's Harry Lewis's recounting of the conversation.
Talked to her and told her you had a degree in CS with a specialization in Ec. She said you were claiming to have a degree in Ec and I just repeated myself. She asked me what that consisted of and I said a block of Ec courses. She started to ask me if that would make you qualified ... and I cut her off, saying I couldn't judge economics qualifications. She thanked me and said that was helpful.
Heffter is the only journalist covering this race, and is simply making things up and pressuring sources to say what she wants them to say. It's a travesty. Heffter should be pulled off this race and fired, but of course, since it's her editor who made up the headline, she won't be.
I talked to Mike Shields, Reichert's campaign manager, and he told me "Apparently, after basing her entire economic message on Harvard, that turns out to have been a big lie. She didn't get a degree in economics."
This came from the Reichert campaign and the NRCC, and the Seattle Times printed the press release. This is what we're running against, a conservative propaganda machine and their willing. Unbelievable; well quite believable, actually.
You can help out here. Heffter, incidentally, has a history of superficial reporting in her career, upsetting readers with facile stories full of false choices and misleading information. I talked to her, and she was just set on telling this story the way she wanted to, without actually trying to understand anything about how Harvard awards degrees.
Heffter's email is here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Be polite, and let me know if you get a response.
Update: Oh Jesus, it's getting worse. The Burner campaign provided the Seattle Times with information about this. Here's her bio page on the Seattle Times website.
Education: Harvard University, B.A. in computer science with a special field of economics, 1996.
Yeah, there's someone trying to mislead voters, alright.