New York Times Criticized for ‘Outrageous Omission’ in Brett Kavanaugh Story

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland.

A Saturday story in the New York Times that leveled a new sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is garnering criticism for what some call an “outrageous omission.” The criticism followed an admission by the Times in an editors’ note at the bottom of the adaptation of the forthcoming book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.

Here’s what the editor’s note said:

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 Times article made waves with this detail in no small part because it sounded a lot like the allegation against Kavanaugh made by Deborah Ramirez. The Times story, citing Yale classmate Max Stier, said that it had 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 F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. 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.)

According to the Times editors’ note, their story made no mention that the alleged victim of the new sexual misconduct claim declined to be interviewed and that her friends said she did not recall the incident.

Here’s how the story now reads:

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 F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. 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; the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode.

Kavanaugh has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct and assault. According to the Times, he “did not speak to us because we could not agree on terms for an interview” and “declined to answer our questions about Mr. Stier’s account.”

Some were pretty clear about their thoughts on the “outrageous omission.”

“Would love to see my fellow liberals who routinely threaten to unsubscribe to the NYT make the same threat now. This is an outrageous omission,” said Scott Shapiro, Charles F. Southmayd Professor of Law and Philosophy at Yale Law School.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called it a “glaring omission,” and wondered if it would have been noticed if Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist hadn’t pointed it out.

This editors’ note was enough for National Review to declare that “The New York Times Anti-Kavanaugh Bombshell Is Actually a Dud.”

“Omitting this fact from the New York Times story is one of the worst cases of journalistic malpractice in recent memory,” wrote John McCormack.

Fox News host Howard Kurtz also questioned how the New York Times left out these details in its story.

“I obtained the relevant pages from this forthcoming book which is ‘The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.’ The woman, the alleged victim here, the woman who supposedly had to touch Kavanaugh’s private parts at this long ago Yale party, she is named by the way although according to this telling she is a sexual assault victim,” Kurtz said. “Here’s what the book says — she refused to discuss the incident though several of her friends says she does not recall it. Now that was left out of what the New York Times published today. If this happened, wouldn’t she be very very likely to recall it? And how do you leave that out of an account about a Supreme Court Justice?”

Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

[Image via Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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