Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson defended the Gray Lady, claiming there was “no conspiracy” behind the controversial, now-revised piece on Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh that omitted key details.
The piece by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly alleged there was corroboration of an incident in which Kavanaugh, as a college student at Yale, exposed himself to a female classmate at a party. After swift backlash, The Times updated the story to include the significant detail that some friends of the alleged victim said she did not recall the purported sexual assault.
“My move would have been the moves that The Times had made. I mean, no one has challenged the basic accuracy of the story that they published,” Abramson told Harris Faulkner Wednesday on “Outnumbered Overtime.”
Pogrebin and Kelly have blamed New York Times editors for the gaffe, claiming the significant details were cut during the editing process. The newspaper also revised the story to mention that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode.
“It’s true that material fact was left out and The Times ran an editor’s note explaining that, which is what you do when you leave something out, but it was no conspiracy to leave out that fact. It was, you know, unfortunately, cut from the piece -- as I understand it,” Abramson said.
Faulkner responded by asking how the accuracy could be challenged when the alleged victim, and an alleged witness, didn’t cooperate.
“It’s hard to take on something that even the victims doesn’t say happened,” Faulkner said.
“Well, it's friends of the victim… she has chosen not to talk to the press,” Abramson said, before adding that alleged witness Max Stier went to the FBI over the alleged incident.
Faulkner quickly added that Stier is a “former Democratic operative for the Clintons,” but the ex-Times honcho downplayed his liberal agenda.
“He works for a nonpartisan political group now,” Abramson said. “I don’t know that you can characterize him as a partisan. If he was such a partisan, why didn’t he go public with this right during the confirmation hearing when he could have really dealt a blow?”
Faulkner reminded Abramson that Stier did go to the FBI at the time.
Abramson said that proved the investigation into Kavanaugh was a “sham,” to which Faulkner asked, “Then why did it end up in your paper?”
Abramson responded that the incident is a “third example of sexual impropriety” by Justice Kavanaugh, to which Faulkner quickly added, “allegation.”
“It’s important,” Abramson said.
“Wow, you really think that, without the evidence from the victim's own mouth,” a stunned Faulkner said.
Abramson said that the reporters involved in the controversial piece were her colleagues when she ran the historic newspaper before she was unceremoniously fired in 2014.
While Abramson feels The Times handled the Kavanaugh story correctly, not everyone agrees. The paper has been widely criticized by watchdogs on both sides of the political spectrum and President Trump has called for the people responsible to resign.
Faulkner then listed a series of recent missteps by the paper -- including changing a Trump headline amid liberal backlash, admitting plans to shift coverage from Russia to Trump’s alleged racism in audio from a leaked town hall, and apologizing for an inappropriate tweet that was used to promote the controversial Kavanaugh story.
Abramson called the tweet “completely out of bounds” but dismissed it as a mistake on Twitter, where reporters “aren’t as careful with the words they use.”
Faulkner asked Abramson point-blank if she would have allowed the story to run if she were still in charge.
“I would have asked for [the omitted details] to be put in,” she said. “There is no evidence that it was fiction.”
Faulkner said it was an omission of facts, to which Abramson said: “it doesn’t make the story itself fiction. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t make the story inaccurate.”
Abramson then said a “cloud hangs over” the Supreme Court because of the allegations against Kavanaugh.
“I have supreme faith and confidence of the top editors both on the news side and opinion side,” Abramson said.