The New York Times appended a second correction over the weekend to a story it published last week about an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email account that she used at the State Department.
The newspaper initially reported Thursday that two inspectors general had asked the U.S. Justice Department to open a criminal inquiry into whether Clinton mishandled classified information on her private email account. After vocal pushback from Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Times updated its story to indicate the Clinton was not the direct target of the alleged request for a criminal inquiry. No clarification or correction was added to the article at that time.
The DOJ pushed back on the story Friday, saying that it was given a referral to investigate the potential mishandling of classified information in connection with the former secretary of state’s private email account. But the nature of the inquiry requested was not criminal, the agency said.
DOJ’s statement prompted the Times to issue a 64-word correction Friday afternoon stating that the article had “misstated the nature of the referral to the Justice Department regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state” based on information from senior government officials.
A second, 58-word correction was added to the article on Sunday:
An article in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state referred incorrectly, using information from senior government officials, to the request. It was a “security referral,” pertaining to possible mishandling of classified information, officials said, not a “criminal referral.”
The Time’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, described the process of walking back the newspaper’s initial reporting as a “mess” in a Monday column.
An editor involved with the story, Matt Purdy, told Sullivan that the newspaper botched the story “because our very good sources had it wrong.” Executive editor Dean Baquet agreed that the blame for the bad information shouldn’t lay with the reporters and editors on the story.
“You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral,” Baquet told Sullivan. “I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”
This post has been updated.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.