Is this going to be the story that finally embarrasses the New York Times
out of its never-mind-the-facts approach to Hillary Clinton? Late Thursday night, the Times
published a story claiming that the Justice Department had been asked "to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account," only to quietly change the story
to say that the Justice Department had been asked "to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used." As in, the story changed from being about a potential criminal investigation into Clinton's conduct to being about a potential criminal investigation into the mishandling of sensitive information by ... someone not named.
The title of a recent memo from the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department—one of the offices the Times cites as having asked for the investigation—offers a hint:
Potential Issues Identified by the Office of the Inspector General of the
Intelligence Community Concerning the Department of State's Process for the
Review of Former Secretary Clinton's Emails under the Freedom of Information
Act [Emphasis added]
Clinton, of course, is no longer at the State Department and so isn't in control of how they review her emails. And the Associated Press reports
One U.S. official said it was unclear whether classified information was mishandled and the referral doesn't suggest wrongdoing by Clinton herself.
So the original story was all kinds of wrong. But never mind that! For a brief moment, the New York Times
thought it had an anti-Hillary scoop, and boy did it run with it. The headline blared that "Criminal inquiry sought in Hillary Clinton's use of email" and one of the reporters on the story, Michael Schmidt, tweeted that:
This is not the first time this election season the Times has had reason to be embarrassed by its political coverage, and specifically its coverage of Clinton, but this may be the worst. (And the fact that I can't say confidently that it is the worst is a shocking reminder of how bad some of their other coverage has been.) They simply don't seem to have checked out their story at all, leaving open the question of whether the reporting was drawn directly from a Republican tip on the story without research into the story's accuracy, whether the newspaper's editors didn't care to establish the facts before running with an incendiary story that they knew would make a splash, or whether they just hate Hillary Clinton that much. None of the possibilities should be acceptable for anything aspiring to be the paper of record, and the unacknowledged change to the heart of the story piles on an additional shame. The Times owes its readers an apology and, more, a promise to do better from now on.