Nate Silver Only Cares About Some of the Haters

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“There was a lot of hype about me,” public nerd No. 1 Nate Silver said last night on The Daily Show. “It sets a very high bar.” A nervous Silver was a bit on the defensive after fewer than two weeks of the new FiveThirtyEight, insisting that the site is not yet perfect, following a bunch of mini-beefs, including with Democrats over his new Senate predictions, ex-colleagues at the New York Times, and the climate-change crowd. It’s the latter, he said, that they’re most worried about.

“We don’t pay that much attention to what media critics say, but that was a piece where we had 80 percent of our commenters weigh in negatively, so we’re commissioning a rebuttal to that piece,” said Silver. “We listen to the people who actually give us legs.” Then he called Paul Krugman “frivolous.”

“We listen to serious criticism the only way we can, which is to put out a better product,” he explained. “If there’s criticism we think is a little bit more frivolous, then we might respond with humor or ignore it or snark or whatever.” That was the move against Krugman in a post mocking Times style. (“Mr. Silver has frequently criticized what he calls ‘pundits’ and ‘opinion journalists,’ including those who write for the Times,” Silver wrote about himself.)

“It was satire,” he told Stewart. “It was meant to be a stereotype of bad data analysis.”

Overall, Silver said his staff has been “brushing everything off their shoulders really well,” but in his new role as manager, he feels it more. “It’s like someone’s throwing apples at your kid.”

“Heavy is the head that wears the crowns, Silver,” responded Stewart. “That’s why I wear the jester’s crown — it’s made of felt, much lighter.”