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Thomas Friedman in Cairo: A fact-check

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Thomas Friedman is a prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, who travels the world meeting influential people and sharing his thoughts about global progress. Because Mr. Friedman is enormously influential, with a cabinet full of Pulitzer prizes, it's important to set the record straight when he gets some facts wrong – as he did in a speech Monday at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

Reading Al Ahram's and The Daily News Egypt's accounts of the event, I found three apparent errors of fact made by the columnist.

1. Partially explaining the success of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in recent Egyptian parliamentary elections, Mr. Friedman said: "The Muslim Brotherhood is legitimate, authentic, progressive alternative. Only faced by the four-month old liberals, they had to win." Al Ahram's English edition quoted him as saying Egypt's "liberal parties ... are only four months old."

Four-month-old liberals? Friedman's point was that the Brotherhood has been around for over 80 years, and was therefore better prepared than secular opponents for Egypt's fairest elections in at least a generation. But this doesn't track the actual history. 

While many new parties have sprung up since the Tahrir protests last year, a number of Egyptian liberal parties have been around as long or longer than the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party. The Wafd Party, which appears to have come in third in the election, was founded in the early 20th century, and was reformed in the early 70s. The Tagammu Party, another secular group with socialist roots, also ran in the recent elections and was formed in the 70s.

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