The New York Times is having an awful experience with the left lately and its wounds are self-inflicted.
The paper of record was always a punching bag for the right, which is infuriated by its liberal bias; but now it is simultaneously assailed by the left, which perceives its liberalism and ham-handedness tantamount to privilege, white supremacism and the normalization of President Trump and rape culture.
It came to another head Sunday, when the Times’s Opinion department tweeted out a column by two of its reporters, relating new-old accusations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh: “Having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.”
There was a second sentence, but does it matter?
It continues, “But when Brett Kavanaugh did it to her, Deborah Ramirez says, it confirmed that she didn’t belong at Yale in the first place.”
There were many responses. One, which was not atypical, came from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, Christine, who tweeted, “Who thought an act of sexual assault was ‘harmless fun’ @nytopinion? For the safety of their colleagues @nytimes HR should investigate.”
The Times deleted the tweet and apologized. One of the reporters, Robin Pogrebin, said, in a TV appearance, she had written and submitted it to her editors. Meanwhile, the unintentional meat of the column was echoed across all other non-right media as “The New York Times has found another Kavanaugh allegation.”
The column was excerpted from a new book by the reporters, who said they found an accusation that Kavanaugh behaved inappropriately toward another woman, in addition to Ramirez, while attending Yale 35 years ago. “A classmate named Max Stier alleged that he saw Kavanaugh with his pants down at a ... dorm party, where he said friends pushed Kavanaugh’s penis into the hand of a female student,” as the Washington Post put it, reporting on the Times’s difficulties.
That was enough for Democratic presidential candidates Julián Castro and Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren to call for Kavanaugh’s impeachment – which would entail conviction by a super-majority in the Senate after a House impeachment vote.
This is less likely than teaching your cat to fetch, but the point was for the candidates to be seen demanding it; to win primary support from voters who will not let facts trump feelings.
Because, left unsaid in the opinion piece was this: The student who allegedly had the Supreme Court justice’s member pushed into her hand three-plus decades ago declined to be interviewed by the reporters, and “friends say ... she does not recall the incident.” That came from a correction to the piece, misleadingly labeled an editor’s note, made long after the presidential candidates had called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment. Or, as New York magazine put it, “Times Makes Major Correction That Undermines Its Big Brett Kavanaugh Story.”
Pogrebin said a Times editor had removed that information.
The other thing is that Max Stier is a lawyer who defended President Clinton in the sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones, which Clinton settled out of court. Kavanaugh was on Jones’ legal team. The Times did not think that was newsworthy.
The Times publishes a lot of good and true reporting which should not be tarnished by these debacles, although it could be. There are things it could do to prevent that.
For example, having someone competent, by which we mean anyone with a modicum of professional judgment, edit its tweets would be a good start; but it also might not be a bad idea to keep its complete reporting in its news division, particularly on matters that we know are going to wind up Democratic presidential candidates, who do not need any more reasons to go off half-cocked.