Media Matters for America Chairman David Brock issued a letter today calling on The New York Times to commission a review exploring “the process of reporting and editing at The New York Times that has allowed flawed, fact-free reporting on so-called scandals involving Hillary Clinton and report back to readers.” Brock's letter was issued after the paper published another error-filled report on Clinton, this time about her use of personal email while at the State Department.
The full letter is below:
July 24, 2015
Mr. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Chairman & Publisher
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY, 10018
Dear Mr. Sulzberger:
As you well know, millions of readers look to your paper for its factual, impartial reporting. The New York Times' reputation as the country's newspaper of record is something we cherish -- as I am sure you do as well. I am writing to you today to express my continued concern about a string of reports from your publication that have been used to cast a shadow over Hillary Clinton under false pretenses.
Let me begin by saying I acknowledge that all journalists make mistakes. Corrections get issued as a matter of course. However, an extraordinarily troubling pattern has emerged at The New York Times of flawed reporting focused on one presidential candidate in particular -- Hillary Clinton. This long pattern raises significant concerns of seemingly institutional anti-Clinton bias at the paper. Regretfully, several examples of what can be characterized at best as flawed reporting on Clinton come immediately to mind:
1) An August 13, 2013, report that claimed to expose the “unease” over finances and management at the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation was an exercise in evidence-free speculation. To date, several errors in this story, which wrongly cast aspersions on foundation management (including the false suggestion that the foundation ran a deficit in a year it actually ran a surplus), have never been corrected.
2) A March 2, 2015, report suggested former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “may have violated” federal law with respect to her use of private email while at the State Department. The relevant rules covering such behavior didn't apply to Hillary Clinton's tenure at the State Department. Even The Times' key source undercut the story's central claim, saying later that Clinton had not violated the law. The original botched Times story has yet to be corrected. The Times has quietly walked back the initial claims in subsequent reporting -- with even the paper's public editor admitting that the original story was “not without fault.”
3) In advance of serial misinformer Peter Schweizer releasing the decidedly anti-Hillary Clinton book Clinton Cash, The Times reported that “major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.” To date, the exact terms of the arrangement between Schweizer and The Times remain secret -- though it was clearly the springboard for yet another faulty Times story. This is extremely troubling given that Media Matters detailed more than TWENTY errors, fabrications, and distortions in Clinton Cash.
Which brings us to today and the latest disgraceful and embarrassing misstep in The New York Times' reporting on Hillary Clinton. The New York Times dramatically changed a report that initially -- based on anonymous sources -- cast Clinton as the target of a requested criminal probe. After publication, The Times altered the report to remove the implication that Clinton was the target of the requested probe -- with no acknowledgement of a correction. A spokeswoman for The New York Times even told The Washington Post there was “no reason for a correction” -- an untenable position that was abandoned later this afternoon after the Justice Department and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, refuted reports of a “criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton's email usage.”
I trust you can see that The Times' reputation is at serious risk. Given the four clear examples cited here, it's time for The New York Times management to address the situation by commissioning a review that will explore the process of reporting and editing at The New York Times that has allowed flawed, fact-free reporting on so-called scandals involving Hillary Clinton and report back to readers. Perhaps lessons can be learned from the internal review commissioned by CBS News following a flawed 60 Minutes report regarding the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi. Following that internal review, then-Chairman of CBS News and Executive Producer of 60 Minutes Jeff Fager admitted that “there is a lot to learn from this mistake for the entire organization.”
I implore the paper to take any and all steps necessary so that these chronic lapses in accuracy and editorial judgement do not recur, and to ensure that the nation's paper of record can be depended on for coverage that is factual and impartial going forward.
Chairman, Media Matters for America