An editor at The New York Times was doing damage control on Monday by attempting to answer questions from readers regarding the paper’s controversial report on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Late Sunday, The New York Times walked back an explosive report about a resurfaced allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh from his college days. The piece by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, adapted from their forthcoming book, alleged there was corroboration of an incident in which Kavanaugh, as a college student at Yale, exposed himself to a female classmate at a party.
However, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway — who reviewed an advance copy of the book – flagged an omission and the paper eventually revised the controversial story after being lampooned on social media over the gaffe.
The update included the significant detail that several friends of the alleged victim said she did not recall the purported sexual assault. The newspaper also stated for the first time that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode.
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Deputy editorial page editor James Dao explained that the reason why the report was classified in the Opinion section’s “Sunday Review” since longer essays and book excerpts are often published there and that the “news analysis” label was attached “to underscore that [Pogrebin and Kelly] are not part of the Opinion section.”
“Given that the woman who was said to be involved in the incident refused to be interviewed, and her friends have said she doesn’t remember what happened, why did you include that accusation in the essay?” readers asked.
“The essay included a previously unreported claim that friends pushed Mr. Kavanaugh’s penis into the hand of a female Yale student during a dorm party with drunken classmates. During the authors’ investigation, they learned that a classmate, Max Stier, witnessed the event and later reported it to senators and to the F.B.I.,” Dao responded. “The authors corroborated his story with two government officials, who said they found it credible. Based on that corroboration, we felt mentioning the claim as one part of a broader essay was warranted.”
Critics panned the Q&A for excluding the explanation of why such key information was left out of the original story in the first place.
“NYT posts explainer on that dumpster fire Kavanaugh piece and somehow manages to avoid answering why the exculpatory evidence was left out. What a farce,” Peter Hasson of The Daily Caller tweeted.
However, during their appearance on MSNBC, Pogrebin and Kelly claim that the information was actually included in their draft of the piece but was moved by the editors.
“In your draft of the article, did it include those words that have since been added to the article?” MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell asked.
“It did,” both Pogrebin and Kelly responded.
“So somewhere in the editing process, those words were trimmed,” O’Donnell said in clarification.
Pogrebin then explained that The Times doesn’t usually include names of victims and that she believed that when the editors removed the name, the crucial information that she didn’t remember was also removed.
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“So I think it was just sort of an editing, you know, done in the haste in the editing process,” Pogrebin added.
“Were you involved in the decision to amend this and do the correction- the addition online to the piece?” O’Donnell followed.
“We discussed it,” Pogrebin said. “We felt like there was so much heat, there’s so much- everyone has been has been seizing on various aspects of this that we certainly didn’t want it to be an issue anymore and we certainly never intended to mislead in any way. We wanted to give as full of a story as possible.”