Rubio defends Haley over curtains story: Example of media pushing bias

Rubio defends Haley over curtains story: Example of media pushing bias
© Greg Nash

Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration A year since Parkland: we have a solution Push for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 MORE (R) on Friday took aim at news outlets including The New York Times on Friday over a story detailing a $52,000 expenditure by the State Department to upgrade curtains at U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyUnited Methodist churches may cut ties with denomination over push to allow LGBT ministers Nikki Haley: ‘I’m too young to stop fighting’ Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? MORE's New York residence.

Rubio said the Times headline for the story, which read, "Nikki Haley's View of New York is Priceless. Her Curtains? $52,701" was an example of the “subtle” way the “media pushes their bias.”

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"Want an example of subtle ways media pushes their bias?" Rubio said in a tweet. "See this completely false & misleading headline about ⁦@nikkihaley. They are not 'her curtains' & buried deep in story is the fact that this purchase was made under Obama administration."

The headline on the article has since been changed to read "State Department Spent $52,701 on Curtains for Nikki Haley’s Residence," though the preview headline on social media remains unchanged.

A spokesman for Haley told the Times that the purchase, which includes a motorized feature to allow the curtains to be closed automatically, was decided during the Obama administration and installed last year, during former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation Trump concealed details of meetings with Putin from senior officials: report MORE's tenure at the agency.

Installation of the costly piece occurred during a State Department hiring freeze, the Times noted, as well as budget cuts for many agencies.

The Times has since added an editor's note to the story that notes, "An earlier version of this article and headline created an unfair impression about who was responsible for the purchase in question. While Nikki R. Haley is the current ambassador to the United Nations, the decision on leasing the ambassador’s residence and purchasing the curtains was made during the Obama administration, according to current and former officials. The article should not have focused on Ms. Haley, nor should a picture of her have been used. The article and headline have now been edited to reflect those concerns, and the picture has been removed."

A top State Department official under the Obama administration defended the agency's purchase to the Times, noting that Haley only has one part-time staffer assisting her at the residence.

“All she’s got is a part-time maid, and the ability to open and close the curtains quickly is important,” Patrick Kennedy told the newspaper.

But other Obama-era officials questioned why such a purchase was made during a season of budget cuts at the agency.

“How can you, on the one hand, tell diplomats that basic needs cannot be met and, on the other hand, spend more than $50,000 on a customized curtain system for the ambassador to the U.N.?” asked Brett Bruen, a former White House aide.

--Updated at 2:35 p.m.