What is the New York Times doing publishing such scurrilous unverified gossip about Kavanaugh in the first place?
My favorite newspaper correction was published in the UK’s Times several years ago.
‘Is The Pope a Catholic?’ has been a long-used rhetorical question to infer a statement of the bleeding obvious.
Yet the Times inadvertently managed to cast doubt over this apparently incontrovertible fact in a reference to Pope John Paul II, and had to print the following comical clarification: ‘Karol Wojtyla was referred to in Saturday’s Credo column as the “the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years.” This should, of course, have read “non-Italian”.’
As a former newspaper editor myself, these sort of excruciatingly embarrassing mea culpas make me cringe as much as they make me laugh; been there, seen the play, read the book, suffered the shame etc.
But sometimes a ridiculous correction appears that goes way beyond any semblance of humor, and makes my eyeballs explode.
In the early hours of yesterday morning, the New York Times posted online a sensationally lurid story about Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh.
It was from a new book that two of the paper’s reporters – an arts writer and Wall Street correspondent – have written about Kavanaugh’s college years.
The bombshell allegation was that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a young woman at Yale.
Specifically, they state that a classmate of Kavanaugh’s named Max Stier claims he ‘saw Mr Kavanaugh with his pants down at a drunk dorm party where friends pushed his penis into the hands of a female student.’
It was a stunning revelation, particularly in light of the furor surrounding his nomination and explosive claims – which he vehemently denied – from Christine Blasey Ford that he had sexually assaulted her.
And it sparked an immediate firestorm of furious reaction led by Democrat presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who all promptly called for Kavanaugh to be impeached.
The supposedly most prestigious newspaper in America published an unbelievably damaging allegation against a Supreme Court justice and neglected to mention that the supposed victim of this ‘sexual assault’ doesn’t remember it ever happening?
Then came the correction.
A sharp-eyed journalist, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, who’d been sent an advance copy of the book, spotted a crucial omission and tweeted about it.
In a new ‘Editors’ note’ posted a few hours later, the New York Times stated: ‘An earlier version of this article, which was adapted from a forthcoming book, did not include one element of the book’s account regarding an assertion by a Yale classmate that friends of Brett Kavanaugh pushed his penis into the hand of a female student at a drunken dorm party. The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.’
Let me get this absolutely straight: the supposedly most prestigious newspaper in America published an unbelievably damaging allegation against a Supreme Court justice and neglected to mention that the supposed victim of this ‘sexual assault’ doesn’t remember it ever happening?
And the New York Times KNEW this fact but decided not to include it in their report?
So they deliberately withheld from their readers a staggeringly important piece of information that would have led the vast majority of those readers to have a very different perception as to the veracity of this story?
This is the very worst kind of indefensible guttersnipe journalism; a trumped-up smear with no credible basis of evidence to support it, designed to destroy the reputation of one of America’s highest ranking lawmakers, and possibly cost him his job.
And it raises a number of very difficult questions for the New York Times.
First, who took the decision to leave out that salient fact, and who else knew?
Second, why did they take that decision?
Third, what is the New York Times doing publishing such scurrilous unverified gossip like this in the first place?
It’s hard not to conclude that they did it because their anti-Trump agenda is now so embedded in the newspaper’s DNA they’re prepared to play fast and loose with facts if it helps take him down.
Executive editor Dean Baquet (pictured) admitted to key members of staff in a townhall last month, in comments that were leaked to Slate: ‘We built our newsroom to cover one story and we did it truly well.’ Sorry? How do you do an untrue story truly well?
They know if they can bounce Kavanaugh out of the Supreme Court then it will badly damage the President who put him there, as we head towards election year.
That’s why two of their reporters were given permission to write this ugly hatchet job book.
And it’s why they ran this scandalous exposé without including a fact that would make it look incredible and ridiculous.
The picture gets even murkier when we examine the credentials of the source and discover that Max Stier is a lawyer who once represented Bill Clinton during the infamous Whitewater investigation into the former president’s real estate dealings.
And it gets murkier still when it emerges that Kavanaugh was working at the same time for the opposing legal team, led by investigator Kenneth Starr.
Was there a political or personal motivation for Stier making this startling claim against Kavanaugh? We don’t know, but it’s not entirely unreasonable to suggest there might be.
There’s a larger significance to this New York Times story too; it was used by the book’s authors to effectively verify previous claims by another woman, Deborah Ramirez, that Kavanaugh pushed his penis in HER face when she was drinking heavily at a party around the same time.
The Times wanted to establish a pattern to cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s angry denial of the Ramirez claim.
But all they’ve achieved instead is to further establish a pattern of their own partisan journalism against Kavanaugh and President Trump.
And frankly, it stinks.
President Trump, entirely predictably, seized on the NYT correction to launch a new Twitter broadside against his favorite target, the mainstream media.
‘The New York Times walks back report on Kavanaugh assault claim,’ he raged. ‘The one who is actually being assaulted is Justice Kavanaugh – Assaulted by lies and Fake News! This is all about the LameStream Media working with their partner, the Dems.’
Trump then urged Kavanaugh to take legal action against the New York Times.
‘Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel.. the lies being told about him are unbelievable. False accusations without recrimination. When does it stop? They are trying to influence his opinions. Can’t let that happen!’
He’s got a point.
And once again, a shocking piece of shoddy journalism has played right into Trump’s hands.
To compound the NYT humiliation, the paper had already been forced to delete a promotional tweet for the same report that began ‘having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.’
They apologized, admitting the tweet was ‘clearly appropriate and offensive.’
That much is self-evident, but how did it ever get tweeted?
As author Roxane Gay said: ‘This is such a profound lapse in judgement and common sense. Sexual assault isn’t harmless fun. What the hell is going on at the NYT?’
Very good question.
These extraordinary gaffes aren’t isolated incidents.
Just last week, the paper deleted a tweet saying that ‘airplanes took aim’ at the Twin Towers on 9/11 – not terrorists who hijacked airplanes.
But it’s the NYT anti-Trump fixation that is far more disturbing than its seemingly endless offensive errors.
The New York Times knows if it can bounce Kavanaugh out of the Supreme Court then it will badly damage the President who put him there, as we head towards election year
For two years, the NYT obsessed about Trump and Russian Collusion, only for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to report it was all bullsh**t.
Executive editor Dean Baquet admitted to key members of staff in a townhall last month, in comments that were leaked to Slate: ‘We built our newsroom to cover one story and we did it truly well.’
Sorry? How do you do an untrue story truly well?
Undeterred, Baquet added: ‘Now we have to regroup and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story.’
That story, he said, would be race.
Or rather, the NYT newsroom would move to a new obsession of branding Trump a racist at every opportunity.
This isn’t journalism, it’s political activism.
The NYT’s Trump-bashing mania is a commercially successful strategy, driving record subscriptions and profits, but at what cost to its reputation for impartiality and fairness?
It’s gone from ‘All The News That’s Fit To Print’ to ‘All The News That’s Unfit To Print.’
The once revered Old Gray Lady’s become a grubby partisan charlatan.