Ben Smith is One Gutsy Guy
By David Henderson
New York Times reporter Ben Smith interviewed his big boss, Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times, and the Times ran the interview, along with an introduction, yesterday. The new story was titled “The Times Took 19 Days to Report an Accusation Against Biden. Here’s Why.” You have to read it to believe it or, maybe, to disbelieve it.
The story is about the incredibly disparate treatment the Times gave to sexual assault charges against soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and soon-to-be the Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden.
Here’s one highlight:
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.
Here’s the one that was the most stunning:
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?
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.
Did you get that? The Biden campaign “thought the phrasing was awkward.”