The two reporters at the center of the botched New York Times story about a new sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh were pressed on Tuesday about the paper’s handling of the facts.
Co-reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day” that it was an “oversight” by the paper when it omitted a key detail in their story: The woman at the center of the allegations against Kavanaugh, declined to be interviewed. Moreover, her friends said she did not recall the incident.
“In the editing process, I think there was some debate about naming her because the Times has a history of not necessarily naming a victim, and so, in the course of that reporting, I think a judgment was made to omit her name and that sentence also included the fact that she didn’t remember it,” Pogrebin explained. “Upon realizing that omission, that oversight, the Times decided to put it back into the story and to issue an apology for having left it out in the first place.”
The Times’ Sunday Review, which falls under the Opinion section of the paper, published a story based on an upcoming book written by Kelly and Pogrebin, detailing a previously unreported allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, which he denied. When Camerota asked why the explosive story was “relegated” to the Opinion section instead of appearing in the news section or the front page of the paper, Kelly said she disagreed “with the word relegated.”
“I think the Sunday review section is a place where Times authors run excerpts of their book. It happens on a regular basis,” Kelly said. “We thought that was a good home for the piece. We shared the book early with our leadership on the news side as well as in other parts of the paper, and we had a discussion amongst ourselves about the best way to handle this. And the feeling was we wanted to write a nuanced piece that would focus on Debbie Ramirez’s story which we thought we were telling with fresh detail and context.”
Pogrebin also addressed the backlash over a tweet that the Times posted to tease the story. The tweet said that “having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.” On Sunday night, the Times apologized for the “offensive” tweet and appended to the story an editor’s note addressing the glaring omission in its original story. Politico reported on Monday that Pogrebin wrote the offensive tweet, citing a Times insider familiar with the matter.
But on Tuesday, Pogrebin sidestepped questions about her role in writing the tweet, saying “all I can say is the tweet was written, and the tweet was sent out, and it shouldn’t have happened.”
When pressed by Camerota, Pogrebin said, “I just feel it’s a distraction to try and go back over that.”
The errors around the Kavanaugh story is far from the only mistake the Times Opinion has made in recent years. Earlier this year, the Opinion section of The Times’ international edition published an anti-Semitic cartoon. The Opinion section issued an apology and The Times’ publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, said the newspaper was “taking disciplinary” measures regarding the editor involved.
In 2017, Sarah Palin filed a lawsuit against the newspaper over an editorial that falsely drew a link between an advertisement of her political action committee and the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in which six people were killed and then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was severely wounded. There is no evidence that the shooter saw the advertisement or that he was motivated by it.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the woman who declined to be interviewed by the Times.