The New York Times said Tuesday that it should not have assigned a Times Magazine writer who had openly criticized Brett Kavanaugh to report a news story about the Supreme Court nominee.
Emily Bazelon, a New Haven-based staff writer for the magazine, had one of two bylines on a Times story Monday on a bar fight that Kavanaugh was involved in while at Yale University. According to a police report, the Times story said, Kavanaugh helped touch off the fight by throwing ice at another patron.
On July 9, Bazelon tweeted, “As a @YaleLawSch grad & lecturer, I strongly disassociate myself from tonight’s praise of Brett Kavanaugh. With respect, he’s a 5th vote for a hard-right turn on voting rights and so much more that will harm the democratic process & prevent a more equal society.”
She added, “Those are fundamental values we try to instill in our students. They matter more than collegiality and credentials.”
Bazelon has also expressed her opinions on Kavanaugh as a co-host on Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast.
Quickly after the story was published Monday, conservatives on Twitter and at outlets like The Daily Caller and Breitbart jumped to criticize Bazelon’s involvement. Most notably, late Monday night, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders re-tweeted Bazelon’s tweet on Kavanaugh, commenting, “Democrats desperately attack Judge Kavanaugh for throwing ice during college. What motivated New York Times reporter to write this ridiculous story? Throwing ice 33 years ago, or her opinion of Judge Kavanaugh in July?”
On Tuesday, a New York Times spokesperson said, “Emily Bazelon is a writer for The New York Times Magazine who occasionally writes op-eds for the opinion section. She is not a newsroom reporter. Her role in this story was to help colleagues in the newsroom gather public documents in New Haven, where Emily is based. In retrospect, editors should have used a newsroom reporter for that assignment. To be clear, the story is straightforward, fact-based and we fully stand behind it.”
Mainstream journalists on Twitter were split on the issue, with some saying the Times made a mistake by assigning someone who’d openly expressed opinions on a subject to work on a news story on the same topic. Others pointed out that Bazelon’s primary task on the story was picking up a police report — a straight-forward reporting task — arguing that all reporters harbor opinions, and so long as Bazleon’s reporting for the story was solid, her previous tweets are incidental.
Freelance writer Yashar Ali tweeted, “I understand why the NYT would publish this story given some of Kavanaugh’s statements, but Emily should have never been assigned to it or have her byline on it. Not a good look.”
Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery replied, “Respectfully disagree here – I don’t have a prob with a NYT Mag reporter (a great one) based in New Haven having byline on piece based primarily on a police report presumably picked up in person in…New Haven. Unless there are ?s about the journalism, the tweet shouldn’t matter.”
Politico · by Jason Schwartz · October 2, 2018