A Costly Omission That Bolstered the President’s Point

September 18, 2019 Updated: September 19, 2019

Commentary

On Aug. 15, 2018, the New York Times editorial board wrote an opinion piece in response to President Donald Trump’s so-called verbal assault on the press.

The NY Times, along with many other media outlets, took exception to the president referring to them as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people,” and accused the president of engaging in a propaganda war against legitimate news sites. However, the circumstances behind the most recent story involving Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemingly eviscerate the board’s argument and bolster the president’s conclusions.

In the 2018 piece, the board made the following observations:

“In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period.

“These attacks on the press are particularly threatening to journalists in nations with a less secure rule of law and to smaller publications in the United States, already buffeted by the industry’s economic crisis. And yet the journalists at those papers continue to do the hard work of asking questions and telling the stories that you otherwise wouldn’t hear.”

According to the board, journalists are human and make mistakes on occasion, which they should promptly correct. And just because a story or a news piece isn’t always easy to listen to doesn’t, in and of itself, make it fake news, nor does it make the journalist who reported it an “enemy of the people.”

In fairness, the board raises a legitimate point here, as long as a story consists of “truths,” and the information, while difficult to hear, is corroborated. Unfortunately for The NY Times, the circumstances surrounding the recent Kavanaugh story seemingly destroy both of these “preconditions.”

As is well-known by now, The NY Times published an article that included a new allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. The allegation was uncorroborated and disputed, yet the newspaper published the piece without including a key piece of information: that the female student who was supposedly victimized by Kavanaugh had declined to be interviewed and denied any knowledge or memory of the alleged event.

When the NY Times updated the original story a day later, it simply included this additional fact and an “editors’ note,” without any additional explanation for the omission.

Moreover, as reported by Fox News:

“Even after the revision, the Times’ story still does not mention a separate revelation in the book that Leland Keyser, the friend of Christine Blasey Ford who was allegedly at the party where Kavanaugh supposedly assaulted her, had specifically rejected Ford’s claims. Previously, through her attorney, Keyser had said only that she was ‘unable to corroborate it because she has no recollection of the incident in question.’”

The two NY Times reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, recently appeared on MSNBC and indicated that the omission of the important detail was because editors removed it from their initial draft, suggesting it was an “editing error,” as opposed to any intention to mislead readers or smear Kavanaugh. This doesn’t explain why it took so long for the newspaper to correct the seemingly “innocent” mistake, though.

It’s also not the only time the reporters left out the information.

As reported by The Western Journal:

“Mollie Hemingway, the Federalist writer and co-author of a truly outstanding book about the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, ‘Justice on Trial,’ reported in a tweet early Monday that Pogrebin and Kelly also did an interview on NPR where they made the same omission as The Times excerpt did.

“The interview, with Terry Gross of ‘Fresh Air,’ was recorded Thursday, according to NPR. … In it, the two Times reporters told Gross the story recounted by Democratic activist and Washington lawyer Max Stier but didn’t bring up the points about how they never actually interviewed the alleged victim, or that the woman has no recollection of it.

“’In response to a question about any other women coming forward, the authors excitedly tell Max Stier’s story, never mentioning that they never spoke to the woman or that she denied it through friends,’ Hemingway tweeted.”

In light of Hemingway’s report, there are legitimate reasons to question the true motivation behind the “omissions” in the original story. Was the information intentionally withheld to try to humiliate Kavanaugh? Was it meant to send a message to any future Trump nominee to the high court?

In the 2018 piece, the editorial board wrote:

“’Public discussion is a political duty,’ the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,’ and ‘may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.’”

While this is true, the omission in the story doesn’t appear to be the result of a simple mistake, nor does the story involve “truths” that are difficult to hear or sharp attacks. Rather, it appears to be nothing more than an effort to smear Kavanaugh’s good name with information that was uncorroborated, unsubstantiated, and, at times, selectively omitted.

Based on the circumstances surrounding this story, the board’s argument in its 2018 piece has been seriously discredited.

The president was 100 percent correct.

Elad Hakim is a writer, commentator, and attorney. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, The Algemeiner, The Western Journal, American Thinker, and other online publications. 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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