NYT Regrets Assigning Writer Critical Of Kavanaugh To 1985 Bar Fight Story

attends the New York Times Schools for Tomorrow conference at New York Times Building on September 17, 2015 in New York City.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images North America

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times said Tuesday that it should not have assigned a writer who criticized Brett Kavanaugh on social media to its news story about the Supreme Court nominee’s alleged involvement in a bar fight in 1985.

The newspaper said that it stood by its story, published Monday, which said Kavanaugh was questioned by police in New Haven, Connecticut, after he was accused of throwing ice at another bar patron. Kavanaugh, who was not arrested, was attending Yale University.

The White House had questioned the Times’ motivation in writing the story because one of its authors, Emily Bazelon, criticized Kavanaugh in July after he was nominated to the court by President Donald Trump.

Bazelon is an instructor at the Yale Law School and a writer for the Times’ magazine. She also writes occasional opinion pieces for the newspaper. She shared a byline on the Kavanaugh story with Ben Protess.

“She is not a news reporter,” said Times’ spokeswoman Eileen Murphy. “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.”

In a July tweet, Bazelon wrote that as a Yale Law graduate and 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.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made note of Bazelon’s comment in a tweet of her own, tying it to what she called a desperate Democratic attack on Kavanaugh.

“What motivated New York Times reporter to write this ridiculous story?” Sanders wrote. “Throwing ice 33 years ago, or her opinion of Judge Kavanaugh in July?”

Sanders’ deputy, Raj Shah, tweeted that Bazelon went on record “trashing Judge Kavanaugh on purely ideological grounds, previewing her bias. This is supposed to be a straight news reporter.”

Murphy said that “the story is straightforward and fact-based and we fully stand behind it.”

These situations are precisely why many news organizations have strict rules for their employees against delivering political opinions on social media.

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