Tuesday 22/10/2019 - 03:50 am


What The New York Times left out

By Paul Janensch


2019.09.19 10:53

On Sunday morning, I pulled out the Sunday Review section of The New York Times.

On page 2, I saw a big spread about past sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh when his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was under consideration by the Senate. It was by Times staffers Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, authors of the forthcoming book "The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation," from which this essay was adapted.

After reading it, I thought the essay was missing something important.

The first 10 paragraphs were devoted mostly to Deborah Ramirez, who went to Yale when Kavanaugh was a student there, and also to Christine Blasey Ford, who attended a Washington-area secondary school near his.

Both have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Ford testified before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. Ramirez was interviewed by the FBI.

What did the essay tell me that I had not already read or heard? Not much, until the 11th paragraph, which said:

“We also uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh in his freshman year that echoes Ms. Ramirez’s allegation. 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. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the FBI about this account, but the FBI did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier.”

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Whoa! Another woman who may make an accusation against Kavanaugh? Did the authors interview the female student? I read the essay to the end, but it did not say.

In Washington, where the essay was seen by many online, the reference to “a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh” made a big splash.

Leading Democrats called for Kavanaughs impeachment. President Donald Trump tweeted, "Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel."

Commentators critical of The Times essay learned that the new book provides more information about the “previously unreported story.” In the book, the authors say that the woman declined to be interviewed about any incident with Kavanaugh, and that “several of her friends said she does not recall it.”

When I was a newspaper reporter and editor, I made sure crucial information like this was in the story.

After the essay was posted online and published in the newspaper’s early print edition, The Times finally corrected its mistake.

A sentence was added to the paragraph about the “previously unreported story.” It says, “The female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode.”

An editors’ note is attached to the end of the revised story:

“An earlier version of this article, which was adapted from a forthcoming book, did not include one element of the books account regarding an assertion by a Yale classmate,” it says, repeating what Stier claimed he witnessed.

The editors’ note goes on to say: “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.”

Am I satisfied? No.

The “earlier version of this article” never should have appeared in The New York Times.

 

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