The New York Times Faces Criticism Over Kavanaugh Essay
The New York Times published an essay on Sunday, Sept. 15, adapted from a book on Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which detailed a third sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh. The piece quickly came under fire for omitting that the female student who was the alleged victim of the assault had refused interviews, and that her friends claimed she did not recall the incident described.
An editors’ note was published clarifying the situation, and Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, co-authors of “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation” and the essay in question, later discussed the decision-making process behind leaving relevant details out of the piece.
“We had her name, and you know the Times doesn’t usually include the name of the victim, and so I think in this case, the editors felt like maybe it was probably better to remove it, and in removing her name, they removed the other reference to the fact that she didn’t remember it,” said Pogrebin in an MSNBC interview.
The Times later published “Answers to Reader Questions on Our Brett Kavanaugh Essay,” which offered explanations for some of The Times’s choices, but didn’t address why the victim’s refusal to interview and her friends’ assertions that she didn’t remember the incident were left out.
“There was zero intent to mislead anybody about the details of the incident,” said Kelly in the MSNBC interview. “That excerpt that we ran in The Times was an adaptation of what’s in our book.”
The framing of the essay, titled “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not.” led many to question why breaking news—a third allegation against Kavanaugh—was buried in the eleventh paragraph of a piece that appeared to be about social exclusion at Yale.
The Times also apologized for a tweet published with the Kavanaugh essay that read, “Having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun,” later calling the tweet “clearly inappropriate and offensive.”
“The department is reviewing with everyone involved – including me – what went wrong to determine how we can avoid similar mistakes,” said James Dao, The Times’s deputy editorial page editor.
At a time when trust in news media is still recovering from 2016’s all-time low, blunders like The Times’s handling of the Kavanaugh essay threaten this slow progress. The essay provided fodder for Republicans to reprimand The Times for biased reporting, and confirmed for some that Kavanaugh was under unwarranted attack by the media.
President Trump tweeted, and later repeated in New Mexico, a call for the resignation of everyone at The New York Times who was involved with the “Kavanaugh SMEAR story,” and called the allegations “false accusations.”
For Democrats, the essay sparked calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment, culminating in Rep. Ayanna Pressley filing a resolution calling for the House to begin impeachment proceedings against Kavanaugh.
Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke have not retracted calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment despite the controversy.
WHAT THE LEFT IS SAYING: Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris: “I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”
I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice.
He must be impeached.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 15, 2019
WHAT THE RIGHT IS SAYING: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz: “READ stunning NYT CORRECTION. If a high-school freshman did this on a school paper, he’d get an F. This is an outfit that has won multiple Pulitzers; presumably they know how to be actual journalists. It’s almost as if the reporters, editors, publisher have a political agenda….”
READ stunning NYT CORRECTION. If a high-school freshman did this on a school paper, he’d get an F. This is an outfit that has won multiple Pulitzers; presumably they know how to be actual journalists. It’s almost as if the reporters, editors, publisher have a political agenda…. https://t.co/8YrwOJJTQE
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) September 16, 2019