Poor judgement call on story

Last year, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh faced confirmation hearings that at times seemed more like an inquisition than an effort by U.S. senators to get at the truth. In the end the fact Kavanaugh had been subjected to a purely partisan assault became clear when the full Senate voted on his confirmation:

In the 50-48 vote, just one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said yes to Kavanaugh.

Then, with Kavanaugh having served on the high court for nearly a year, it was back to the smear game a few days ago.

A story published by the New York Times under the headline, “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not,” claimed reporters had uncovered evidence of sexual wrongdoing by the justice.

Times editors posted the story online before the paper’s print edition — with a different version — appeared. The online article stated that at a party during his freshman year in college, Kavanaugh exposed himself and his friends somehow pushed his penis into the hands of a young woman.

But there is a serious problem with that story: The woman in question refused to be interviewed by the Times. Her friends told the paper she doesn’t remember the alleged assault. A former classmate of Kavanaugh’s who was said to have reported the incident to the FBI and senators refused to discuss it with the paper.

The Times’ print edition included that information, without explaining why it was not part of the online story.

Some of the Times’ defenders pointed out the story was run on the paper’s opinion page, not page one. That is no defense, of course. The story was presented as fact, not opinion, regardless of placement.

Obviously, the Times has plenty of egg on its face. Printing as fact a story based on an occurrence the victim of which doesn’t remember sounds much more like politics than journalism.

By Josh Bovee

Leave a Reply