NYT Editors Removed Detail That Woman Didn't Recall Alleged Kavanaugh Incident

Reporters say it was an 'error of judgment'

September 17, 2019

The New York Times reporters who wrote about a previously unreported sexual misconduct accusation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh said an editor removed the key detail that the woman in question had no memory of the event.

The Times is under fire for a widely criticized piece excerpted from a new book by its reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation. The book included the revelation that a Yale classmate told lawmakers last year that he saw Kavanaugh expose himself at a dorm party and his penis was shoved into a woman's hands.

But the Times omitted a fact from the book in the article: The woman did not remember it happening.

MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell asked the pair of reporters Monday night what happened with the "omission that the Times later felt belonged in the piece." In reality, it took sharp online criticism led by author Mollie Hemingway—whose book Justice On Trial covered the furor around the Kavanaugh hearings—to force the Times to issue the embarrassing correction.

Kelly said there was "zero intent to mislead anybody" about the details of the alleged "incident." She maintained the book and article were more about the experiences of Deborah Ramirez, who told the New Yorker last year Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party. She had no corroborating witnesses, acknowledged her memory was hazy because she had been drinking, and even needed a week of "assessing her memories" before going on the record.

"We included the additional detail about this other, as-yet unreported allegation because it seemed germane to the type of thing we were talking about," Kelly said. "It was a somewhat similar incident."

"In your draft of the article, did it include those words that have since been added to the article?" O'Donnell asked.

"It did," Kelly and Pogrebin replied.

"I think what happened actually was that we had her name, and the Times doesn't usually include the name of the victim, and so I think, in this case, the editors felt like it was probably better to remove it," Pogrebin said. "And in removing her name, they removed the other reference to the fact that she didn't remember."

Pogrebin said it was an innocent error done in the "haste" of editing, and she repeated there was no attempt by anyone to mislead readers. Kelly referred to it as an "error of judgment."