The New York Times recently published an article regarding an allegation of sexual misconduct against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. However, shortly after the story’s publication, readers and commentators criticized the paper for leaving out several details about the sourcing and substantiation of the material. As the paper has reported on the Trump administration and other conservatives over the past several years, The Times has established itself as an agenda-driven newspaper and has consistently failed to deliver objective reporting. Its most recent failure only highlights its unwillingness to approach reporting with any semblance of candor.
The details not published in the original report include the crucial fact that the female student whom Kavanaugh allegedly harassed declined to be interviewed — and that her friends told the paper she did not remember the event. While this information was added later, its exclusion cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s legitimacy to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court and his character.
The New York Times has a history of inaccurate reporting in regards to prominent conservatives. A spokesman for Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, had to fact-check the paper when it insinuated that the State Department spent almost $53,000 on curtains for her official residence in New York. The writers of the article sought to implicate Haley and the Trump administration in the purchase when in reality President Barack Obama’s State Department bought the curtains. In regards to the President, The Times’ reporting on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia — itself a left-wing fantasy concocted to undermine the election of our president — fed into the wider media’s speculation on the allegations for years.
The instances with which Times stories have misled readers indicates one of two conditions. At best, the paper’s staff — despite its 127 Pulitzer Prizes — is incapable of writing an accurate news story. More likely, however, I think the editors of the paper made a choice to publish a story that would be as damaging as possible for Kavanaugh by leaving out crucial details. Instead of working to provide the trustworthy news vital for our republic and fulfilling its responsibility as a participant in the free press to hold power accountable, I think The Times decided to prioritize political expediency.
Holding The New York Times accountable for its intentionally false and prejudicial reporting does not equate to an endorsement of media censorship — nor does it discount the importance of a robust free press. As a conservative writer who has consistently criticized the elite liberal establishments at the University and in Charlottesville, I know full well how a free press is vital for our discourse. On the contrary, offering constructive criticism to The Times to discourage dishonesty would help the once-great newspaper regain its former status as a credible news source in the eyes of many Americans. The writers, editors and management of the The New York Times have consistently failed to uphold standards of journalistic objectivity — and their failure to do so has resulted in real consequences. After releasing its now-discredited report, several candidates for the Democratic presidential nominations called for the impeachment of Kavanaugh.
The calls to impeach Kavanaugh represent more than liberal presidential candidates rushing to conclusions to advance their own political agendas. Impeaching a Supreme Court justice would mean undermining a justice nominated and confirmed by Senators elected by the American people. Any efforts to impeach a Supreme Court justice should only be implemented when the reasons against his or her continued occupancy of the position are substantiated and true. While the media plays an important role in upholding democratic values, organizations like The New York Times can also work against democracy when they spread misleading information.
The University community should understand better than most the need for accurate reporting when it comes to allegations of this nature. When Rolling Stone magazine published a story alleging a sexual assault that took place at a University fraterinty party, our community reeled. The fraternity house named in the story was vandalized, Greek life was suspended and the University underwent a time of confusion and hurt. The allegations were later found to be fabricated. The writer of the story failed to corroborate the account or confirm the allegations with witnesses and failed to uphold her responsibility as a journalist.
While the Rolling Stone story and The New York Times’ reporting on Brett Kavanaugh are not obviously not the same situation, they both represent the importance of accurate reporting and fact checking. Both the writer of the Rolling Stone report and the editors of The Times sought to affirm a preconceived conclusion at the expense of accurate and responsible reporting.
Allegations such as those raised against Kavanaugh or anybody else should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, The New York Times — in publishing what I think is an intentionally dishonest report — has failed to responsibily address the problem of sexual assault and misconduct in our society. The paper should never have weaponized this issue for political gain. The media and others — including elected officials — should always approach such matters with the goal of finding the truth instead of manipulating public opinion to target their political opponents.
Tom Ferguson is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.