Top NY Times Editor Admits Biden Campaign Edited Their Sex-Assault Allegation Story

April 13th, 2020 10:23 PM

In a measure of some internal accountability, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet submitted to a few questions from new Times media columnist Ben Smith about why the paper took 19 days to report Tara Reade's sexual assault allegations as opposed to quickly reporting the rape charges made against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation. 

Then there was the controversial sentence coming to Biden's defense. Baquet admitted they deferred to the Biden campaign's wishes and struck it: 

SMITH: I want to ask about some edits that were made after publication, the deletion of the second half of the sentence: “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.” Why did you do that?

BAQUET: Even though a lot of us, including me, had looked at it before the story went into the paper, I think that the [Biden] campaign thought that the phrasing was awkward and made it look like there were other instances in which he had been accused of sexual misconduct. And that’s not what the sentence was intended to say.

Baquet's funniest answer came right before that: 

SMITH: Do you think that, in your heart, you’re reluctant to promote a story that would hurt Joe Biden and get Donald Trump re-elected?

BAQUET: I can’t make that calculation. I won’t. I won’t let my head or my heart go there. I think once you start making those kinds of calculations, you are not a journalist anymore. You’re some sort of political actor.

So we're supposed to believe that the Times never makes political calculations in reporting stories and then timing them for effect. 

Baquet lamely attempted to say Kavanaugh's accusers could be reported almost immediately because he was "already in a public forum in a large way" and "the biggest political story in the country"...unlike a presidential campaign??

SMITH: I’ve been looking at The Times’s coverage of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. I want to focus particularly on the Julie Swetnick allegations. She was the one who was represented by Michael Avenatti and who suggested that Kavanaugh had been involved in frat house rapes, and then appeared to walk back elements of her allegations. The Times wrote that story the same day she made the allegation, noting that “none of Ms. Swetnick’s claims could be independently corroborated.”

Why was Kavanaugh treated differently?

BAQUET: Kavanaugh was already in a public forum in a large way. Kavanaugh’s status as a Supreme Court justice was in question because of a very serious allegation. And when I say in a public way, I don’t mean in the public way of Tara Reade’s. If you ask the average person in America, they didn’t know about the Tara Reade case. So I thought in that case, if The New York Times was going to introduce this to readers, we needed to introduce it with some reporting and perspective. Kavanaugh was in a very different situation. It was a live, ongoing story that had become the biggest political story in the country. It was just a different news judgment moment.

Let's guess the real answer here is political timing: Kavanaugh was in "danger" of being confirmed to a lifetime appointment, and Swetnick's tale was published on September 27, just nine days before Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate. Biden's running for a four-year term and this is a long campaign.