WELL, WASN’T that fun? After announcing in a headline, “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” the public editor said it was, “to put it mildly, a mess.” Yet they still put the blame at the sources, abdicating their responsibility to readers.
It gave Mark Halperin an excuse to opine about Clinton’s “mortal threat.” Make sure you save this post by the inside master, because it’s one for the books.
In our hyper-partisan world, many people will not care about the truth here. That the Times story is false in almost every particular—down to the level of who wrote what memo—will only lead to accusations that people trying to set the record straight are pro-Hillary. I am not pro-Hillary. I am, however, pro-journalism. And this display of incompetence or malice cannot stand without correction.
And to other reporters: Democracy is not a game. It is not a means of getting our names on the front page or setting the world abuzz about our latest scoop. It is about providing information so that an electorate can make decisions based on reality. It is about being fair and being accurate. This despicable Times story was neither.
“A mess”? That’s being kind, because the very premise of the headline and the article was to… Oh, never mind, we all know what it was and it had absolutely nothing to do with facts, the truth or helping to inform Times readers.
A Democratic spokesman for the House oversight committee, which is closely involved in Clinton e-mail stuff, told the Erik Wemple Blog: “Unfortunately, the New York Times did not check with us before running its story, even though we have offered to help in the past and could have corrected these errors before they showed up on the front page. We do not know who the New York Times talked to, but we talked to the Inspectors General themselves.”
Conservatives actually think the New York Times is in the bag for Hillary Clinton, because her campaign demanded changes and the Times complied because they were completely wrong.
I’ve been writing about Hillary and the media for a while now, including a book, and can say with some force that this was bound to happen in/to the New York Times. With few exceptions their reporting on Clinton has always been about how fast they can get the story up, not if what they are reporting is accurate. Their entire mentality on Clinton at the Times is culled from the ravings of Maureen Dowd.
Erik Wemple of the Washington Post
On another level, the critique was leaving out something that once mattered in political dialogue: the truth. In response to the Clinton camp’s complaints, the New York Times adjusted its story to squelch the notion that Clinton herself was at the center of a request for a criminal probe. Those alterations brought the story closer to the facts. Not quite close enough, however. Even after eliminating the statement that the request for criminal investigation was directed at Clinton herself, the story was still considerably wrong. This was not a criminal referral in any aspect, and a subsequent correction addressed that not-so-trifling detail. As of Saturday, the corrective tissue on the piece could serve as a banquet tablecloth:
Correction: July 25, 2015
An article and a headline in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state misstated the nature of the request, using information from senior government officials. It addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that email account. It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton.
In addition, government officials who initially said the request was for a criminal investigation later said it was not a “criminal referral” but a “security referral” pertaining to possible mishandling of classified information.
The point here being that the New York Times wasn’t buckling under to the Clinton campaign. It was undertaking a long and painful walk-back.
This article has been updated.