NY Times faces blowback for removal of controversial passage on Biden sexual assault allegation

The New York Times is facing blowback after its executive editor admitted to removing a controversial passage in a story focusing on a 1993 sexual assault allegation against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Runoff elections in Texas, Alabama set for Tuesday Biden campaign slams White House attacks on Fauci as 'disgusting' Biden lets Trump be Trump MORE.

The criticism comes after the Times published an article looking into allegations made against Biden by Tara Reade, who says the then-senator sexually assaulted her when she worked as a Biden senate staffer.

“The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable,” read the original passage in a Sunday story before it was removed.

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Times executive editor Dean Baquet told the news organization’s media columnist Ben Smith that the edit was made because the Biden campaign argued the phrasing made it appear that other women had made similar accusations against Biden.

“The [Biden] campaign thought that the phrasing was awkward and made it look like there were other instances in which he had been accused of sexual misconduct,” Baquet told Smith.

Smith then pressed Baquet on why the Times didn’t acknowledge the change in an editor's note to readers.

“We didn’t think it was a factual mistake. I thought it was an awkward phrasing issue that could be read different ways and that it wasn’t something factual we were correcting,” Baquet said.

Smith also raised questions about whether Biden was being treated differently in the Times coverage than Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughRoberts court tempers conservative expectations OVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe Five takeaways from Supreme Court's rulings on Trump tax returns MORE, who faced allegations of sexual assault during his confirmation process in 2018.

Smith’s story, titled, “The Times Took 19 Days to Report an Accusation Against Biden. Here’s Why,” asks why the paper wrote about Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick's allegations the same day they were made without any independent corroboration, while the Times waited 19 days before publishing a piece on Reade’s accusations.

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“Kavanaugh was already in a public forum in a large way,” answered Baquet, who argued claims against the then-nominee were already in the public forum.

“If you ask the average person in America, they didn’t know about the Tara Reade case,” Baquet continued. “We needed to introduce it with some reporting and perspective ... and help people understand what to make of a fairly serious allegation against a guy who had been a vice president of the United States and was knocking on the door of being his party’s nominee.”

Swetnick’s claims were dismissed by an incredulous Kavanaugh as "a joke" during Senate confirmation hearings in October 2018, while Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMore Republicans should support crisis aid for the Postal Service GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Republicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report MORE (R-Maine) called Swetnick's claims “outlandish … put forth without any credible supporting evidence,” adding, “that such an allegation can find its way into the Supreme Court confirmation process is a stark reminder about why the presumption of innocence is so ingrained in our American consciousness."

NBC News contacted four people Swetnick said could corroborate her story.

One could not recall who Swetnick was, one other person was dead, and two did not respond to requests for comment, per NBC News.

Reaction to the Smith interview of Baquet was swift across the political spectrum, with Smith being praised for the questioning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smith joined The New York Times in 2020 after being founding BuzzFeed eight years prior.