NYT screws up, plays into hands of Trump

I can’t resist a bit of Schadenfreude about the New York Times, as both Andrew Sullivan and I recently criticized it for mixing opinion with news, and becoming unacceptably “woke”. This week, the paper screwed up in its desire to go after a Trump appointee, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. When Kavanaugh was having confirmation hearings, my judgment was that he was probably guilty of sexual malfeasance, but on character issues alone I didn’t think he deserved confirmation. There was no need, then, to adjudicate a “he said/she said” conundrum. Others differed, but I thought Kavanaugh was unfit for the bench.

Last week two authors of a “News Analysis” piece in the NYT, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, both Times reporters, dropped a few bombshells about unreported or uninvestigated sexual harassment by Kavanaugh; these are detailed in their upcoming book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.

Unfortunately, one of the incidents they recounted doesn’t hold water, since the victim doesn’t even remember it. The Times had to issue an embarrassing correction, as detailed in this New York Magazine piece (click on screenshot):


An excerpt:

On Sunday, the New York Times updated its story reporting a new assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, which had drawn widespread attention, to clarify that the woman at the center of the incident does not recall it.

A newly attached editor’s note at the bottom of the story reads: “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 that she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.”

. . . The story, which is an adaptation from an upcoming book about Kavanaugh and his confirmation to the Supreme Court by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, disclosed an incident that had not been previously reported from Kavanaugh’s party-heavy days at Yale. It reported that “a classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.” The story says that Stier notified the FBI about what he’d seen but has not spoken publicly about it. But it did not originally mention that the unnamed woman has no recollection of it.

The book, though, apparently does mention the lack of recollection. The New York Magazine article has other stuff, including an allegation against Kavanaugh that wasn’t investigated by the FBI, but should have been.

At any rate, this correction just gave the “President” more ammunition against the media, and Trump does know how to play that:

This is one more example of hatred of Trump that is so deep that people make tactical missteps playing right into the hands of the Orange Man. It still mystifies me why two Times reporters would leave out a critical detail in a story accusing Kavanaugh of sexual crimes—a detail crucial in judging the truthfulness of the story.  Was this poor reporting or a deliberate omission. Since the authors did know about the alleged victim’s lack of recollection (it’s in their book), why did they omit it?

h/t: cesar

62 Comments

  1. ploubere
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I just listened to the authors being interviewed on Fresh Air. I haven’t read the book, but from their interview it doesn’t sound like they have a political bias, and in fact don’t offer an opinion on Kavanaugh and whether he should have been confirmed, even when asked. They in fact offer a very nuanced analysis of the situation that does not blanket condemn Kavanaugh. They do seem to report only the facts.

    The larger point of both the article and, it would appear, the book is about the investigative process during the confirmation hearings and how politics seems to have curtailed it.

    • Mark R.
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I read an article about the book in the L.A. Times this morning, and it stressed that the FBI were only allowed to investigate/interview 9 Republican-picked “witnesses” from a group of 50, and they had less than a week to do it. This is a big deal…much bigger than one witness (who was inebriated) not remembering a penis-touching incident.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

        Further, “I don’t remember” is a standard tactic to avoid telling the truth. There are several reasons this woman may want to deny remembering the incident, some perfectly valid. They include:
        1. She doesn’t want to have her name out there, and be subjected to the kind of attention, both good and bad, that she would get.
        2. She doesn’t want her family to have to go through their wife/mother/daughter/sister being in the public eye.
        3. She doesn’t want her whole life scrutinized.
        4. She supports the kind of policies (e.g. anti-abortion) she hopes having Kavanaugh will be able to help with his vote.
        5. She’s a Trump supporter, or at least a Republican, and she doesn’t want to give Democrats any ammunition against the Republican party/Trump.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted September 17, 2019 at 2:26 am | Permalink

          You’ve hit the nail on the head with these excellent points elucidating legitimate reasons why someone who does remember might say “I don’t remember” when asked about some problematic event. One must keep these points in mind when considering the validity of her allegation.

          Further, some may not think it’s possible, but she could have honestly forgotten it, that does happen; though with all the scrutiny in the media it’s gotten, I’d think she would have recalled at least some of the memory by now.

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted September 17, 2019 at 2:29 am | Permalink

            Correction: not “her allegation” but an allegation made by others regarding what they say occurred to her that was perpetrated by Brett Kavanaugh.

  2. JohnE
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Although it was outrageous that the NYT did not report all the facts, it may not be appropriate to conclude that the allegations don’t hold water. The victim’s FRIENDS are the ones who claim that the victim SAYS she doesn’t remember it. It could be the case that: (a) the “friends” are lying; (b) the victim is a Trump/Kavanaugh supporter irrespective of the truth of the allegations; or (c) the victim wants to avoid the avalanche of publicity and the inevitable death threats that would result if she came forward and verified the allegations.

    • Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Or d) she truly doesn’t remember it, but it did happen. It looks like there were other witnesses.

      • Blue
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        … … which with d), violence and abuse happens
        a lotta.lotta. the time. In re the victims’ memories.

        Blue

    • Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it’s possible, but a news analysis should clearly have made that point.

      • JohnE
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        I absolutely agree, and it’s infuriating that the NYT’s failure to do so gave Trump this opening to shout fake news.

    • I
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      It could also be that Mike Pence, dressed up as Brett Kavanaugh, and Steven Miller, who spiked the punchbowl brought in by Wilbur Ross, grabbed Kavanaugh’s privates and thrust them into the woman’s hand.

      Isn’t it funny that the rate of retractions that leans towards republicans is approximately 100% and the rate of errors that cut against republicans is approximately 100%? I’m sure it’s a coincidence. Republicans are that uniformly bad.

      • JohnE
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        There was no retraction, just a clarification, and your math is imaginary. But isn’t it funny that when there IS a retraction or apology, it comes from the mainstream media, whereas Trump has yet to retract or apologize for any of his estimated 12,000 lies thus far in his presidency. I’m thinking that 12,000 is WAAAY more the number of inaccurate statements that have been made by the mainstream media, but you’ve got no problem with that, right?

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          How many of those 12000 ‘lies’ were accusations against someone with massive social and criminal penalties?

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

            What do you mean?

            a. how are his lies now ‘lies’ in inverted commas?

            b. are you saying that the lies he tells do not come with social and criminal penalties for the people he routinely traduces? Are you saying that there haven’t been serious, even societally devastating consequences from his lies?

            c. how have you established that the multiple accusations against Kavanaugh, corroborated by multiple witnesses, are now lies that warrant comparison with Trump’s lies? Lies like making up shit about the size of his inauguration crowds?

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        I don’t quite get this. Are you saying Republicans are uniquely persecuted by the media and are held to account more often than Democrats?

    • Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      This comports with a snippet on this that was on NPR recently. There, apparently there was a lot of campus ‘talk’ surrounding the incident at the time. I know that does not carry much weight; rumors being rumors.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      Sorry. I wrote my response before reading what you wrote, which covered everything I said and other stuff I thought, but I’d taken too much space already to add.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    The reporters certainly screwed up, no doubt about that. But the Kavanaugh hearings were a travesty. The guy never should have been pushed through and it is obvious who was doing the pushing. The bottom line is, this court has no respect and has become a bias joke. Just like the entire justice department and the congress. We have a hell of a lot more bigger problems than the NYTs. Expecting perfection from the Times in this climate is probably not going to happen. If Trump would just buy the Times then we would not have to worry about it in the future.

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      That’s a splendid idea. I know just where The Donald could borrow the money to buy the NYT, and then it could be renamed правда.

  4. Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Can sitting members of the SC be indicted? (Parallel question to the Mueller stuff.)

  5. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    “Since the authors did know about the alleged victim’s lack of recollection (it’s in their book), why did they omit it?”

    I know I know

    It would have been a microaggression against people of low memory.

  6. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    “This is one more example of hatred of Trump that is so deep that people make tactical missteps playing right into the hands of the Orange Man.”

    Or they made a mistake. People do that, it’s not necessarily an example of a bias.

    • JezGrove
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, but given Trump’s propensity for exploiting this kind of error – and the need to back up any serious news story – you’d think they would be extra careful.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        These things happen; as obvious a mistake as it might seem in retrospect things just slip through sometimes no matter how hard you’re trying to be careful. Slip-ups made by the liberal media aren’t necessarily examples of ‘TDS’.

        You’re absolutely right that Trump will exploit it, and it’s always best to deny him as much ammunition as possible.

        …Nevertheless Trump is a gibbering twatsatchel who had a week-long nervous breakdown when the weather people contradicted him. Trump’s gonna Trump whatever happens. I don’t think liberals should factor his demented mooing into their calculations. If you start thinking that way you end up tip-toeing around in exactly the way he wants.

        • ploubere
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          Good points.

  7. Blue
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I find this report out this morning from
    the Washington Post frickin’ frightening:
    https://beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/16/not-just-kavanaugh-another-alarming-reason-fear-supreme-court.

    Apparently the majority justices’ past
    opinions including Mr Kavanaugh’s in re
    A(ny) Thing Involving the Environment ?
    Bode quite, quite ILL .even IF.
    there becomes a Democrat for president and /
    or very many / a majority within Congress !

    And … … only ~12 years’ time left before
    .The Evidence. OF The Onslaught of This ILL.

    Blue

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      And that is not all Blue. Last time I checked it is the congress who must act to get any of the stuff done that democratic candidates talk about. Climate change, health care, you name it. Presidents do not enact or provide the money to do any of these things. It takes the congress to do anything and frankly, they do nothing. Therefore the cooked, and corrupt supreme count may never come into view.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Whole thing strikes me as a tempest in a teacup, a squall in a soupçon, Dorian in a demitasse. Kavanaugh was confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. Hasn’t been but one SCOTUS justice ever impeached in the House of Representatives, Samuel Chase in 1805, and he beat the rap in the Senate.

    There’ve been movements of varying seriousness since to try to muster support for impeachment proceedings against certain sitting justices — Earl Warren, William O. Douglas, and Abe Fortas (who ended up resigning) among them. But nothing is going to get Brett Kavanagh off the High Court bench except, as the saying goes, getting caught in bed with a dead girl or live boy (and even the latter, thankfully, probably wouldn’t do it nowadays, assuming the “boy” was above the age of consent).

    • Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      “getting caught in bed with a dead girl”

      What if the girl ideadified as a boy? 😊

    • Roger Lambert
      Posted September 17, 2019 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      ” But nothing is going to get Brett Kavanagh off the High Court bench ”

      Except that we now have confirming evidence that he perjured himself twice during his hearings regarding emails and information.

      We also now know that there were 25 additional witnesses to his sexual predations that came forward and were never interviewed by the FBI.

      So, he might just fall eventually.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 17, 2019 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Nothing would please me more, Roger, than for the Dems to get back a seat on the Court, after Moscow Mitch stole one from them like a thief in broad daylight. But I wouldn’t go holdin’ my breath, given the near impossibility of impeaching a SCOTUS justice.

        And this seems like a particular long-shot right now, what with the alleged victim conveying through friends that she doesn’t remember.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted September 17, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

          I think that Justice Samuel Chase was impeached by the House, but the Senate acquitted him, and in the 18th Century at that.
          Justice Abe Fortas resigned, instead of facing impeachment hearings.
          The only 2 cases I can think of.

  9. Charles Sawicki
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Everything I know about Kavanaugh indicates he should never have been nominated for the Supreme Court. It’s fairly certain he sexually harassed women so he fits right in with Thomas. In the confirmation hearings he showed clearly that he doesn’t have the temperament required to be any kind of judge. Liberals should not spend their time attacking him without more than he said-she said evidence. It’s a no win activity that just makes them seem politically motivated. He isn’t going anywhere with a Republican senate.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      I doubt that anything will come of this.

  10. KD
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    The problem with the whole story is that if Kavanaugh is so drunk he is wandering around with his pants down, and someone else grabs his penis and puts it in someone else’s hand, then Kavanaugh is the actual victim of sexual assault.

    He is incapacitated, someone is touching his genitals and for some kind of sexual purpose. Further, the manner in which he was dressed and the fact that he was incapacitated would be “blaming the victim”.

    Just imagine if some woman was at the party, drunk to incapacity with her bloomers falling down, and someone grabbed her vagina and thrust it into someone else’s hand? Does she deserve it because of the way that she was dressed and the fact that she was tanked?

  11. Mike Anderson
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Was this poor reporting or a deliberate omission.

    Hard to believe it was a deliberate omission when it’s right there in the book (which was in reviewers’ hands at the time of the NYT article).

    Tactical blunder.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted September 17, 2019 at 2:47 am | Permalink

      It wasn’t “reviewers” who wrote a review of the book, the authors of the book presented the information as an op-ed, and they were specifically asked about this on MSNBC on
      in an interview a couple of days ago they say that the statement was indeed in the piece they submitted but that that statement had disappeared between the time they submitted the piece and when it was first published. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kW-IZiYEHaI. Their statements on this come at about 4:40.

      They offer what to me is a plausible explanation, but to say that doesn’t mean that I accept it. Could be what happened; maybe not.

  12. Curtis
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    And Warren, Sanders, Harris, Castro and others fell for it by calling for impeachment without knowing the facts.

    • KD
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      The subtext here is that people are seriously concerned about RBG’s health, and this is the first shot against the bow in anticipation of an even nastier Supreme Court appointment battle, featuring a GOP President and a GOP Senate versus Hollywood, the Media and the Senate minority.

    • Roger Lambert
      Posted September 17, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Fell for it?

      This newspaper article is a nothing burger. Worse than a nothing burger – it’s weird.

      It argues that there is a problem with the allegations against Kavanaugh because a central figure doesn’t recall the incident. But that central figure was unconscious at the party – of course she doesn’t remember it! The point here is that multiple witnesses saw Kavanaugh’s penis being put into her hand. Why this article exists at all is the real news story.

      This NYT piece does absolutely zero to cast doubt on the allegations against Kavanaugh.

  13. Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I wrote off the NYT as a serious news outlet after they declared it their “mission” to prevent Trump from getting elected. Then instead of admitting an abject failure in a stupid battle they never should have picked, they started trumpeting that their sales have skyrocketed.

    Unethical, anti-journalistic, and politically clueless.

  14. ladyatheist
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Naturally, he tweeted what he heard on Fox & Friends. The fact that he gets his news from a tv show and then amplifies it on twitter makes him unfit for office. I hope you posting that here doesn’t give him additional twitter points.

  15. max blancke
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    “a classmate, Max Stier saw Mr. Kavanaugh”

    Max Stier is not just a “classmate” who shares my name.

    He defended Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones case.
    He was on the Clinton Whitewater defense team.
    In both these cases, Kavanaugh was on the prosecution’s legal team.

    I cannot know Kavanaugh’s college behavior. But I am also unlikely to accept accusations against him by a long time rival and political enemy where the alleged victim does not remember any such incident, and where none of the other people attending the party where the incident is supposed to have happened remember it either, despite investigators contacting dozens of people who were supposedly there.

    What I am reading about this story indicates that many people are outraged that he can be allowed to serve after being accused of misconduct. That would be a pretty low standard of proof. None at all, really.

  16. Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    My own slightly-disgusted opinion is that while the Republican Party has been slowly but inevitably dying of stupidity over the past 20 years, the Democratic Party is shooting itself down rapidly from its own hysterical and hypocritical hatred.

    A plague on both their houses. Vote Libertarian.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Libertarians suck!

      • Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        Why do you think that? Libertarians believe that the role of government should be limited to that where government is really needed for societal good. Specifically, Libertarians have led the charge against the government interfering where people make decisions that affect only those involved and not society, including abortion, sexual preference, substance use, diet preferences and more. Why exactly do we suck?

        • Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

          I should add that Libertarians have unambiguously supported the Bill of Rights.

        • EdwardM
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

          Do you believe, as many libertarians do, that government agencies such as the FDA should be abolished?

          • Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

            No, I do not support abolishing the FDA. Although the FDA has deprived people of needed medications and should be given a more limited mission. For example, why should they deny people with terminal diseases who may benefit from experimental cures if they are willing to take their chances? Who, other than the persons involved, are affected?

            BTW, just as a Democrat or Republican does not necessarily support the all of platform of their party, please do not day libertarians suck because you do not agree 100% with the Libertarian platform. Like everyone else, we are trying to find a political philosophy we support, but it doesn’t necessarily fit all.

            • EdwardM
              Posted September 16, 2019 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

              “For example, why should they deny people with terminal diseases who may benefit from experimental cures if they are willing to take their chances?”

              They can. FDA calls calls it “compassionate use” and many people take advantage of it. But more importantly, there are sound scientific and medical reasons why it is not generally a good idea to do this. So compassionate use is carefully managed.

              “Who, other than the persons involved, are affected?”

              The companies who make the medications. They will be and have been sued if the therapies do not go as wished.

              I did not say that Libertarians suck. I do not support all of their ideas, especially their laissez faire approaches to business.

              • Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

                I know you didn’t. Ladyatheist did. I don’t agree with all of the ideas of any political party, but the libertarians have an important point of view and should not be dismissed that way.

        • ladyatheist
          Posted September 17, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          There isn’t a libertarian catechism, and some (enough) libertarians hold truly horrible views, such as Rand Paul’s belief that businesses should be able to discriminate on the basis of race if they want to.

  17. ladyatheist
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m far more concerned about the impending war against Iran, run by a president who can’t decide between going for the Nobel Peace Prize or using nuclear weapons. “What are they for if we can’t use them, then?”

    • Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      BTW, Libertarians vigorously oppose such military adventures. Perhaps you should inform yourself before claiming we suck.

  18. yazikus
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    When talking to my parents (my Litmus Test Evangelical Voters ® ) I brought up the idea that even if the allegations were false, BK here has a ton of baggage. Surely there are respected Republican justices out there with less controversial pasts – why not nominate one of them? They agreed, albeit reluctantly. The man is a PR trainwreck. The only reason he was picked was because of his blatant partisanship and potential for judicial activism.

    • max blancke
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really have an informed opinion of the man. I certainly know that I disagree with some of his politics, but that seems to be the case with most people seeking office.

      To me, the most disturbing part of all of this is the opposition “by any means necessary”. Anyone Trump appoints is going to be accused of all sorts of things, as a routine tactic. In the past, when a person like Max Stier made some sort of accusation, the NYT and other media would do some sort of investigation prior to publishing. Maybe it is better to give them the benefit of the doubt that they neglected to do any fact checking, rather than face the possibility that they knew the details and published anyway, actually concealing facts to further an agenda.

      I spent some time in the USSR as part of a student exchange. I used to find it funny how the Soviet media would publish blatant falsehoods, especially since the majority of the people had learned how to divine the truth from what was published, by nuance of the wording of the articles. An example from that period is when it was announced that there was no significant radiation danger from a routine reactor test in Ukraine, everyone knew it was time to worry.

      I just wish I could read or hear a story from a major US news outlet and not feel that I need to do my own fact checking before I form an opinion.

  19. Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    This is what corruption looks like…… people with dirty hands eagerly washing each other’s hands. Trump selecting BK and now defending him is so predictable.

  20. Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    I do not see how the NYT “screws up” here. An op-ed piece omits something and the NYT makes a correction. How is that screwing up? How many other news outlets are so honest? Certainly not Fox or even the WSJ (to which I subscribe as well as the NYT.) Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 17, 2019 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      +10

  21. Posted September 17, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I saw these two authors on the view and they said the woman’s name was in the original draft of the NYT article. This was edited out by someone else on the team (in order to protect her identity and avoid a media deluge on her doorstep), and unfortunately, the whole sentence containing her name also contained the information that friends of hers had said that she didn’t recall the incident.


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