New York Times grapples with Brett Kavanaugh allegations, while ‘She Said’ authors continue to shine and Rush Limbaugh gets judgy

September 16, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good Monday morning. A new book about Brett Kavanaugh will be released Tuesday, and it’s already at the center of a controversy.

Burying the lead?

The allegations are new and shocking.

New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly wrote that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, when he was a freshman in college, allegedly had his pants down at a party and exposed his privates to a female student; then his friends pushed his privates into the hand of the female student.

What’s noteworthy is that this new allegation appeared in the 11th paragraph on Page 2 of the Sunday Review section of the Times. (For the record, The Times added to its story that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed and that friends say she does not recall the episode.)

So let’s get this straight: There’s another never-before-heard allegation involving a Supreme Court Justice who has been accused of sexual misconduct in the past and it’s — with all due respect to the Sunday Review section — buried deep inside the Times? How is this not a front-page story?

There was such bewilderment on Sunday that The New York Times’ communications department felt the need to release a statement on Twitter. It explained that the new information was part of an excerpt from the upcoming book “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.”

“The new revelations contained in the piece were uncovered during the reporting process for the book, which is why this information did not appear in The Times before the excerpt,” the statement said.

That’s not an adequate explanation. Why wasn’t a bigger deal made out of this latest allegation, especially because the excerpt was from a book written by reporters who work for the Times? This allegation — along with more details about a similar allegation involving a former Yale student named Deborah Ramirez — is troubling on its own, as well as possibly suggesting that Kavanaugh perjured himself during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Was it a case where the Sunday Review section wasn’t in communication with the national desk? Should there be a concern that serious allegations involving a Supreme Court justice uncovered by Times reporters appeared in a book excerpt before appearing as a news story in the Times?

These are questions the Times should be asking today.

A bad tweet, then a presidential reaction

The Kavanaugh story led to two notable tweets over the weekend. In an attempt to tease and link to the story, the Times Opinion section tweeted (then deleted):

“Having a penis thrust in your face in a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun. But when Brett Kavanaugh did it to her, Deborah Ramirez says, it confirmed that she didn’t belong at Yale in the first place.”

Harmless fun? What was the person who wrote that thinking? When it deleted the tweet, the Times called it “poorly phrased.”

On Sunday, the Times communications department tweeted:

“Also, a tweet that went out from the @NYTOpinion account yesterday was clearly inappropriate and offensive. We apologize for it and are reviewing the decision-making with those involved.”

In the meantime, President Donald Trump reacted on Twitter about the Kavanaugh story, tweeting:

“Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue. The lies being told about him are unbelievable. False Accusations without recrimination. When does it stop? They are trying to influence his opinions. Can’t let that happen!”

It’s unclear what Trump would expect the DOJ to do, but whatever it is, it would seem troubling.

One more thing …

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that the Kavanaugh book appears as if it’s going to be a must-read. Pogrebin and Kelly will appear on NBC’s “3rd Hour of Today” this morning for their first TV interview ahead of the Tuesday release of their book.

‘She Said’ — a new ‘All the President’s Men’?


New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor, left, and Megan Twohey in April. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are continuing (and deservedly so) to get major praise for their book “She Said,” about how they uncovered the sexual assault and harassment allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, which led the #MeToo movement.

The two appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday to discuss a book that some are calling this generation’s “All the President’s Men” for its peek into the world of journalism.

“That was one of the things that we were really excited about with this book,” Twohey told host Brian Stelter, “is that there’s so much of journalism and investigative journalism that takes place off the record, that takes place in meetings that are technically on background. Basically secretive aspects of our reporting that are never seen in the articles that are published in the newspaper.”

The reporters worked with sources to get clearance to put that part of the reporting on the record, and the result was a book that not only tells the Weinstein story, but reveals how really good journalism is done.

“We really want people to read this book and feel what we felt, which is that even at a time when everything seems so stuck, even at a time when it feels like the very notion of truth is collapsing’’ Kantor said, “facts can cause social change.”

Rush to judgment


Radio personality Rush Limbaugh in 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

In another interesting “Reliable Sources” interview, Hill TV host Krystal Ball said she is considering suing conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for falsely accusing her of publicly posting nude photos of herself when she was a teenager.

After making those claims on his show, Limbaugh later said, “I was under the impression that when she ran for Congress … some nude photos of her from social media had surfaced. Well, it turns out that that wasn’t quite true.”

That wasn’t good enough for Ball, who told Stelter, “Slut-shaming is a very common tactic that is employed against women to sort of shut down their voices, to make them irrelevant, to say that they can’t be leaders. I wanted other women to know that you can speak out and you can fight back and people like this can be held, at least somewhat, to account.”

She also told Stelter, “Based on the legal advice that I have received — even for someone like myself who is a public figure where there’s an added level of scrutiny — you have to prove actual malice, which just means that they either knew it was a lie or there was a reckless disregard for the truth, I think he quite clearly meets that level, right? He didn’t care. None of this was remotely true and he didn’t care.”

North to Alaska


“NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt in Alaska. (Photo courtesy NBC News)

“NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt spent the weekend in Alaska and will air a report on tonight’s broadcast as a part of the network’s “Climate in Crisis” coverage. The photo above is from Portage Valley, not far from a spot Holt said he visited with his family as a child in 1970. Holt said that back then, you could see the Portage Glacier from the shore. Now, you have to travel by boat about three miles into the lake to see it.

Meanwhile, CBS ramps up its climate coverage this week with a series called “Eye on Earth.” The project will run across many of CBS News’ platforms, including the “CBS Evening News.”

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Comments

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  • Re: Burying the Lead
    This article should have never been published. There is no evidence. The woman who is the basis of the story, can’t remember anything about what a leftist political hack claims happened over thirty years ago. Where is the fairness in the Poynter’s review? Why does Poynter place the burden of proof upon the accused? Not one woman has presented any hard evidence of any misconduct by the Judge. Where is the news?