Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lott (More Guns, Less Crime) Sues Levitt (Freakonomics) Over Book's Statements, Email

John Lott , the author of More Guns, Less Crime has sued Steven Levitt over statements Levitt made in Freakonomics, the book he wrote with Steven Dubner, as well as an email that Levitt sent last year in which Lott claims Levitt defamed him. Lott's complaint cites this passage from Freakonomics as an example of the type of defamatory statements made in the book concerning Lott and his research: "Then there was the troubling allegation that Lott actually invented some of the survey data that supports his more guns/less crime theory. Regardless of whether the data were faked, Lott's admittedly intriguing hypothesis doesn't seem to be true. When other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime."

The email of which Lott complains occurred during the following exchange. John McCall, a Texas economist, emailed Levitt concerning the question of replication of Lott's research, saying (according to the complaint):

"... "You also state that others have tried to replicate [Lott's] research and have failed. Please supply me with appropriate citations so that I might check for myself." In a subsequent e-mail, McCall referred to a special issue of The Journal of Law & Economics..., which contains a collection of scholarly articles, including one by article that also addresses right-to-carry laws....After discussion with the editors, Lott raised the funds to pay the journal's printing and mailing costs....In his e-mail, McCall stated as follows; 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....

"Levitt responded by e-mail that same day and stated as follows: It was not a peer referred 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 foregoing allegations are false and defamatory. The Special Issue was, in fact, peer reviewed. Levitt knew it was peer reviewed because Lott asked to contribute an article and told him that the papers would be peer reviewed....Levitt's statement that "For $15,000 [Lott] was able to buy an issue and put in only work that supported him" is also false and defamatory. Lott did not "buy" the issue not did he "put in only work that supported him"..."

Read a Chicago Tribune article about the lawsuit here. has blogged about this suit and has posted a copy of the complaint.

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