Clinton's Camp Bashes The New York Times' Journalistic Ethic In A Scathing Letter

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images.
On July 23, The New York Times ran a controversial article, originally titled “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email.” The assertion: Two inspectors general had asked the Justice Department to investigate whether sensitive government information had been mishandled in relation to Hillary Clinton’s personal email account. From the moment the story was published, though, its legitimacy began to quickly unravel.

On July 25, the Times issued its first correction to the story: In fact, Clinton herself wasn’t being investigated, only her email account. On July 26, a second correction appeared: The investigation wasn’t a criminal inquiry; rather, it was a security one. (This downgraded the seriousness of the allegation considerably.) Two days later, Hillary Clinton’s communication director, Jennifer Palmieri, decided to issue her own statement to the paper — in the form of a near-2,000-word letter to NYT executive editor Dean Baquet.

“I am writing to officially register our campaign’s grave concern with The Times' publication of an inaccurate report related to Hillary Clinton and her email use,” Palmieri wrote. She called the story itself “erroneous” and the factual errors within it “egregious,” while also admonishing the paper for its apparent “abandonment of standard journalistic practices in the course of its reporting on this story.”

The full letter has been published on Hillary Clinton’s official site. If you’re not inclined to read a waterfall of shame-on-you text today, the most relevant takeaways are these: The Clinton camp is pissed that the Times published this piece without doing more due diligence and fact-finding, particularly because the assertions within the original article were serious and highly damaging; that it seems like getting a scoop trumped seeking out corroborative evidence; that the paper didn’t issue a full correction speedily enough; and that, generally, the reasoning from NYT editors about how and why this happened simply isn't good enough.

Though the Times didn’t print Palmieri’s letter, it has responded via a post by Public editor Margaret Sullivan in the intervening days. Sullivan recapped all the places the piece took a wrong turn, but in the end, her call-to-action boiled down to: “Less speed. More transparency.” By this, Sullivan meant that the original piece came together too quickly, which translated to sacrificing deeper investigation — and that sometimes, even the most trustworthy of anonymous sources don’t have their facts straight.

The title of the original piece has been changed to "Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton's Email Use" — a phrase that reflects the general toothlessness of the article itself. In an email to Refinery29 this morning, The New York Times Public section declined to comment on either the original article or how these sorts of missteps can be avoided in the future. Our request for comment from Hillary Clinton's staff has not yet been returned.

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