Media folks have long viewed the New York Times as something akin to the Kremlin back in the heyday of its beloved Soviet Union. Times-watchers, like Kremlinologists, collect signs, signals and portents about what actually is taking place within the grim fortress near Times Square. So the recent brouhaha over Mrs. Clinton’s emails has brought Timesology roaring back to the fore:
Four days after a major error in a story about Hillary Clinton’s emails, the New York Times has published an editors’ note laying out what went wrong. The note, published late Monday night, said The Times’ initial story was based on “multiple high-level government sources,” but acknowledged that as the paper walked back its reporting, corrections were slow to materialize, and substantial alterations “may have left readers with a confused picture.”
The original story was published Thursday night. It initially claimed federal inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into Clinton’s email use during her tenure at the State Department. Over the next few days, the story had numerous changes, including that the investigation request was for a “security” referral, which is far short of a criminal investigation. In addition, Clinton was no longer named as a target.
As careful readers have noticed, there is a proxy war going on inside the Times regarding the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua. On one side is the Obama administration, most likely in the person of Valerie Jarrett, furiously leaking damaging information about Mrs. Clinton during her disastrous tenure as secretary of state; on the other are the die-hard aging Clinton partisans (the Times once was filled with them) who are quick to rise to her defense. As the newspaper noted in its “correction”:
The Times reported online Thursday night (and in some print editions Friday) that the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies had sent a referral to the Justice Department requesting a “criminal investigation” into whether Mrs. Clinton “mishandled sensitive government information” on the email account. That article was based on multiple high-level government sources.
“High-level government sources” — whoever could that be? The Clinton camp immediately swung into action. As the CNN article linked above notes:
The Times quickly came under intense scrutiny for both getting the story wrong and failing to indicate changes had been made. Earlier Monday, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet acknowledged that readers had been “whipsawed” by the changes. “We should have explained to our readers right away what happened here, as soon as we knew it,” he said. But Baquet stopped short of blaming the reporters or editors involved. ”You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral,” he said. “I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”
So now you know whose side Baquet is on. Back to the Times‘s “Editors Note” –
Shortly after the article was published online, however, aides to Mrs. Clinton contacted one reporter to dispute the account. After consultation between editors and reporters, the first paragraph was edited to say the investigation was requested “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled,” rather than into whether Mrs. Clinton herself mishandled information. That type of substantive change should have been noted immediately for readers; instead, a correction was not appended to the article until hours later.
On Friday, another question arose — whether the investigation being sought was a “criminal” inquiry. As other news organizations followed up on The Times’s report, the Justice Department confirmed to them that a “criminal” investigation had been requested. Officials also gave that description again to Times reporters who were rechecking their initial story. But later in the day, the Justice Department and the inspectors general said that the request was not a “criminal referral” but rather a “security referral,” meant to alert the F.B.I. about a potential mishandling of classified information. It was not clear how the discrepancy arose. In addition, the inspectors said they discovered that four emails out of a sample of 40 they examined contained classified information, although it was not marked as such.
Take that, Mrs. Clinton. As I noted in a Tatler post when the story first broke, “The Times understands something about Hillary the rest of the media, which generally has the attention span of a dog, does not: there is no end to the amount of mischief she can get up to, and get away with, if she lies through her teeth, appears to ‘cooperate’ and then drowns the investigators in an ocean of legalisms and ‘process’.” The last thing the Clintons needed at this point in Hillary!’s stumbling “camapaign” is a criminal inquiry into the activities of a woman who, let’s face it, gives ample reason for concern in the “criminal” department.