Lazy Saturday Reads: Is The New York Times Morphing Into A Scandal Sheet?

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Good Morning!!

Early Friday morning, The New York Times published a story about Hillary Clinton on the front page below the fold. In it reporters Michael Schmitt and Matt Apuzo stated that–according to unnamed government sources–a criminal investigation into emails from Hillary Clinton’s server was in the offing.

The story’s lead soon had to be altered, and in the course of the yesterday, the story fell apart. Dylan Byers reported the changes at Politico at 4:58AM Friday.

New York Times alters Clinton email story.

The New York Times made small but significant changes to an exclusive reportabout a potential criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s State Department email account late Thursday night, but provided no notification of or explanation for of the changes.

The paper initially reported that two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation “into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state.”

That clause, which cast Clinton as the target of the potential criminal probe, was later changed: the inspectors general now were asking for an inquiry “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.”

The Times also changed the headline of the story, from “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email” to “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account,” reflecting a similar recasting of Clinton’s possible role. The article’s URL was also changed to reflect the new headline.

As of early Friday morning, the Times article contained no update, notification, clarification or correction regarding the changes made to the article.

Whoever it is at the NYT who is making decisions based on Clinton hatred is making a laughing stock of what was once considered “the newspaper of record.”

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Salon: Another shoddy Clinton smear: Anatomy of the New York Times’ epic email screw-up (emphasis added).

Late last night, The New York Times published an anonymously sourced reported, titled ”Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” that claimed two inspectors general asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether the Democratic presidential frontrunner “mishandled” sensitive government information by using a personal email account and server while she was secretary of state. That story quickly fizzled by early Friday morning, with the Justice Department quashing talk of a criminal probe, although a new report claims Clinton sent at least four emails that contained classified intelligence community information from her private server while at the State Department.

 A spokesperson for the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that a review of 40 of the 30,000 emails Clinton has released from her time in office found that four “were classified when they were sent and are classified now.” Clinton had previously claimed she never sent classified emails using her personal server, although the State Department has later acknowledged that some information in the messages should be retroactively classified.

But even that was incorrect, as reported Michael Schmidt had to admit on Hardball With Chris Matthews last night (thanks for Dakinikat for telling me about the MSNBC report. If you watch it, you’ll learn that there never was any criminal investigation and that the emails in question were not even sent by Hillary. They were messages that may have been sent to her that contained information that probably should have been marked classified, but were not so marked.

The best part of the Matthews segment was his interview with Representative Elijah Cummings, who explained why the story is just plain B.S. and not worth the paper it was printed on. Here’s the segment as posted on YouTube.

Back to the Salon story:

The Clinton campaign came out forcefully against the news, much swifter than they had with the initial round of New York Times reporting on the use of Clinton’s email account, with a campaign spokesman railing against “reckless, inaccurate leaks from partisan sources.”  After allegedly receiving complaints on the report’s accuracy from the Clinton campaign, The Times changed the article’s title to ”Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account,”and most crucially, walked back the claim that Clinton herself was the target of the probe. A spokesman for the campaign released a statement on Twitter early this morning blasting the report:

Contrary to the initial story, which has already been significantly revised, she followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials. As has been reported on multiple occasions, any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted.”

Citizen Kane

Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek: How The New York Times Bungled the Hillary Clinton Emails Story.

What the hell is happening at The New York Times?

In March, the newspaper published a highly touted article about Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account that, as I wrote in an earlier column, was wrong in its major points. The Times’s public editor defended that piece, linking to a lengthy series of regulations that, in fact, proved the allegations contained in the article were false. While there has since been a lot of partisan hullaballoo about “email-bogus-gate”—something to be expected when the story involves a political party’s presidential front-runner—the reality remained that, when it came to this story, there was no there there.

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Then, on Thursday night, the Times dropped a bombshell: Two government inspectors general had made a criminal referral to the Justice Department about Clinton and her handling of the emails. The story was largely impenetrable, because at no point did it offer even a suggestion of what might constitute a crime. By Friday morning, the Times did what is known in the media trade as a “skin back”—the article now said the criminal referral wasn’t about Clinton but about the department’s handling of emails. Still, it conveyed no indication of what possible crime might be involved.

The story seemed to further fall apart on Friday morning when Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a statement saying that he had spoken to the inspector general of the State Department and that there had been no criminal referral regarding Clinton’s email usage. Rather, Cummings said, the inspectors general for State and the intelligence community had simply notified the Justice Department—which issues the regulations on Freedom of Information Act requests—that some emails subject to FOIA review had been identified as classified when they had not previously been designated that way.

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But Eichenwald says the problems with he story “may” be even worse.

But based on a review of documents from the inspectors general, the problems with the story may be worse than that—much, much worse. The reason my last sentence says may is this: There is a possibility—however unlikely—that theTimes cited documents in its article that have the same dates and the same quotes but are different from the records I have reviewed. I emailed Dean Baquet, the Times’s executive editor, to ask if there are some other records the paper has and a series of other questions, but received no response. (Full disclosure: I’m a former senior writer for the Times and have worked with Baquet in the past.)

So, in an excess of caution, I’m leaving open the possibility that there are other documents with the same quotes on the same dates simply because the other conclusion—that The New York Times is writing about records its reporters haven’t read or almost willfully didn’t understand—is, for a journalist, simply too horrible to contemplate.

Indeed, if the Times article is based on the same documents I read, then the piece is wrong in all of its implications and in almost every particular related to the inspector generals’ conclusions. These are errors that go far beyond whether there was a criminal referral of Clinton’s emails or a criminal referral at all. Sources can mislead; documents do not.

Please go read the whole thing at the link.

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Media Matters’ take on the story: The Unanswered Questions From The NY Times‘ Debunked Clinton Emails Report.

The New York Times‘ dramatic changes to their initial, anonymously-sourced claim that federal investigators were seeking a criminal probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email raises significant questions about the paper’s reporting of the story.

Read the whole thing at the link, but here are the questions:

“Who were the Times’ sources?”

It’s still unclear, but whoever they were they apparently burned the Times and they should be outed, according to a Media Matter source.

“Did the Times seek documentary evidence of the referrals for a criminal probe?” 

The answer seems to be no.

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“Did The Times Reach Out To Democrats On The Benghazi Committee Before Publication?”

Again the answer seems to be no. The story only quoted Republicans.

“Did The Times Reach Out To The Inspectors General Before Publication?”

Apparently not.

Quoting Kurt Eichenwald, “What the hell is happening at The New York Times?” Are they trying to become The New York Post? The powers that be at the Times need to start providing some answers.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific weekend!


39 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads: Is The New York Times Morphing Into A Scandal Sheet?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Andrea Mitchell also took apart the NYT story yesterday. Watch her report at Media Matters.

    MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Debunks Flimsy Times Article On Clinton Emails: “This Was Not A Criminal Referral.”

  2. janicen says:

    Excellent post, bb. It seems the only wrongdoing was on the part of the NYT. They absolutely should out their sources if in fact they were misled. Unless their sources are so obviously flimsy that they don’t want to admit depending on them.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Most likely the sources are Republicans on the Benghazi committee, Gowdy and someone else.

    • Fannie says:

      I hope Cummings calls for an investigation to see who the sources are. BB is right that they are likely from Benghazi Committee. And I read this morning Gowdy is changed Hillary’s date for hearing from May to October. What’s up with that? Certainly makes my eyes roll.

  3. Sweet Sue says:

    When it comes to Hillary, the New York Times is the paper of (broken) record.

  4. Prolix says:

    Yet another example of the Foxification of all media. Fox’s working the ref is paying off in that Fox no longer has to be at the scene of the crime of these bogus stories. They can then pick it up from there and spread it like the most maleficent manure.

    As for the “government officials,” they are hiding in plain sight — it is none other than the Gowdy Benghazi staff. After six investigations, it is most difficult to conjure evil doings where none exist. Schmitt’s tentativeness is palpable in his defense of his inaccuracies — not exactly a profile in courage or journalistic ethics.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Exactly. I said the same thing above before I read your comment.

      • Fannie says:

        We need to call an investigation into the committee, and call Fox new to be investigated. They are running the republican campaigns, debate, and accepting money so that somebody can jump the ladder and get to the top of the debates. That’s wrong.

  5. NW Luna says:

    The NYT has made far too many screwups — very unprofessional ones — on this story. They need to issue an apology.

    Not holding my breath, though.

  6. NW Luna says:

    10 more trees on your street could make you feel 7 years younger, study shows

    Leafy, tree-lined streets aren’t just good for property values; they may also be good for your health, according to a new report.

    After analyzing two sets of data from the city of Toronto, researchers report that adding just 10 trees to a single city block could improve how healthy a person feels as much as if they made an additional $10,000 a year or if they were seven years younger. The study in the journal Scientific Reports also found that residents of neighborhoods with higher tree density are less likely to have cardio-metabolic conditions such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

    And it’s not just that the well-to-do who live on tree-lined streets can afford a healthier lifestyle. The researchers controlled for demographic and socioeconomic factors and found that living near trees still had an effect on one’s perception of health and overall health.

    • Fannie says:

      Boise is the “city of trees”………..I can’t stand the clean up from all the damn trees around my house.

    • janicen says:

      Hah! Goes to show where all of this so called Bernie Sanders momentum is coming from. Not from Democrats!

    • NW Luna says:

      …a desire to see Clinton tested in some way to prove that she is ready for what Republicans are going to throw at her.

      I’d say the voters are already convinced she is ready!

  7. ANonOMouse says:

    Once upon a time the NYT was the epitome of excellent journalism, now it has become a rag, especially when it comes to any story about Hillary. Hillary has some powerful enemies that are determined to stop her run at the nomination and I fear that some of those enemies are on our side of the aisle. I want Hillary to become more visible, more vocal and more enthusiastic. She needs to bring everything she has to the table ASAP, or she may get pushed to the side like she did with Obama. The enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders worries me a bit, not because I don’t like Sanders, but because it’s the same sort of energy in the movement that I saw with Obama.
    Hillary needs to get ahead on the enthusiasm curve. I know she doesn’t want to light the candle too soon for fear of it burning out, but she needs to step things up a bit. I just don’t see the passion for Hillary that I thought would be there and these hit pieces don’t help. It’s a lot easier for the NYT to publish damaging gossip, than it is to reel it back in.

    BTW….My partner and I just ended one of the longest engagements on record, 31 years, when we got married on 7/15. It actually does feel different to be married, it feels FABULOUS!!!!

    • Sweet Sue says:

      Congrats to you and your wife! And they said it wouldn’t last!
      Do you hang out at Still4Hill’s place, too?
      It’s a great site to find out where Hillary is-everywhere-and how she’s building her campaign.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Thank you Sweet Sue. I haven’t visited Still4Hill, but I will start doing so. I am so excited about this campaign, but I don’t feel the enthusiasm from others that I felt in 2008. And I’m worried that Bernie Sanders will grab up the momentum and it will be tough for Hillary to get it back. I wish she had attended Net Roots Nation so that there would have been the opportunity to contrast and compare, because I do believe Hillary would have responded appropriately to “Black lives Matter” or any other topic. I wasn’t surprised that Bernie and O’Malley didn’t get it right. O’Malley, imho, will fade fast, Bernie on the other hand, might not be quite as easy. I always remind people that Bernie, as much as I’ve admired his principled positions on economic and social issues, isn’t a Democrat. He’s an Independent Socialist and that’s not a good label to take to the GE. I, personally, love Bernie’s brand of socialism, but the word “socialism” will scare the bejeebus out of many people who only see bad in the word “socialist” and will never vote for him because of that label. It’s time for Hillary, time for the first WOMAN POTUS and time for an Executive Branch that’s built around a Woman’s vision of America.

    • List of X says:

      Congratulations, and may your marriage last long enough to set the record for marriages, too. 🙂

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Thank you, but I think we’re a bit too old to set that record. We have friends who got married 3 days after the SCOTUS decision, they’ve been together 65 years. When we went to get our license the Clerk told us that she’d only had a few couples that had been together longer than us. One of the couples were our friends, the other couples had been together 50+ years and 40+ years. As far as I’m concerned we’ve all set records. It’s not easy to stay together for decades when your family and most of society doesn’t want you to be together in the first place. I suppose that’s where stubbornness pays dividends! We were determined to stay together, in spite of it all. 🙂

    • Beata says:

      I hope you had a wonderful wedding and honeymoon, Mouse! It’s good to have you back at the blog. You’ve been missed.

      It’s early days yet for Hillary’s campaign. I think enthusiasm for her will build. Our girl is going to outshine all her opponents during the debates! No doubt about that.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Thank you Beata, we had a wonderful time. And I’ve missed reading and commenting with the Sky Dancers. Y’all are my internet family.

        And I agree that Hillary will “outshine” the competition in the debates. I just would like to see more of her, more enthusiasm for her and I want to see big crowds at her events. I know she doesn’t want to ramp it up to much this far out, but I’m getting restless. We need President Hillary.

    • janicen says:

      I’m so happy for you and your wife. It’s great to have you back. We missed you!

    • Delphyne49 says:

      Congratulations, Mouse!! So happy for you and your wife!!

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Thank you Delph…..We’re still celebrating. We’re might just celebrate from here on out. 🙂

    • bostonboomer says:

      Congratulations to you, Mouse! I’m glad you’re back. All the best to you and your partner in the years to come.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Thank you very much BB. And I’m glad to be back reading & commenting on Sky Dancing. I was only able to connect to the internet once from our hotel, the Wi-Fi signal was so weak I finally gave up. It was good to be able to read this post yesterday morning, it’s an excellent post by the way.

  8. List of X says:

    Here is a fun story: Pentagon is unhappy with armed civilians showing up to “guard” recruiting centers: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/07/25/426146861/pentagon-asks-armed-citizens-not-to-stand-guard-at-recruiting-centers