The New York Times faces questions over Kavanaugh story

Between an offensive tweet and a significant revision, The New York Times’ handling of a new sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh attracted almost as much attention as the accusation itself.

The story also gave President Donald Trump and his allies fresh ammunition in his campaign against the media, where the Times was already a favorite target.

The revelation that led several Democratic presidential contenders to call for Kavanaugh’s impeachment came in the 11th paragraph of a story labeled “news analysis” that ran in the Sunday opinion section. The story is based on an upcoming book by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,” about the junior justice’s brutal confirmation battle last year.


Headlined “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not,” the story was primarily about Deborah Ramirez, a Connecticut woman who alleged that Kavanaugh, as a freshman at Yale in 1983, had pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her. Kavanaugh has denied those claims.
Yet the authors said they’d uncovered a similar story involving Kavanaugh at another freshman-year party, where he allegedly exposed himself and friends pushed his penis into the hands of a female student. The story said former classmate Max Stier reported the incident to the FBI and senators as Kavanaugh’s nomination was being discussed, but the story said Stier would not discuss it with the authors. Kavanaugh would not comment on the story, a court spokeswoman said Monday.

After the story was posted online but before it was in the print edition, the Times revised the story to add that the book reported that the woman supposedly involved in the incident declined to be interviewed, and that her friends say she doesn’t recall the incident. While an editor’s note pointed out the revision, it did not say why those facts had been left out in the first place. A Times spokeswoman said no one was available for an interview on Monday.
The Times’ deputy editorial page editor, James Dao, posted answers to readers’ question on the newspaper’s website Monday evening but did not address this issue.

The failure to initially report that the woman did not remember the alleged incident “is one of the worst cases of journalistic malpractice in recent memory,” John McCormack wrote in the conservative magazine National Review.
The Washington Post, detailing its own decision on the story, called into question the Times’ decision to run with the accusation in the first place.


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