The New York Times had a bombshell on its hands the other day: The paper of record reported that government investigators had asked the Justice Department to investigate possible criminal charges in relation to the emails Hillary Clinton kept on a private server. But the Times' scoop was way off. The government investigators had actually asked the Department of Justice to look into whether Clinton's emails that contained classified information might have been inadvertently released by the State Department. The story played right into the hands of Clinton's legion of enemies, who now had a cudgel to bang over the head of the presumptive Democratic nominee. The Times ended up changing its story, but that wasn't enough for the Clinton campaign. The campaign fired back at the Times on Tuesday with a nearly 2,000-word open letter to the paper's executive editor. It then posted the letter on hillaryclinton.com. Read the whole thing below:
Letter to the New York Times’ Dean Baquet
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, New York
July 28, 2015
Dear Mr. 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.
I appreciate the fact that both you and the Public Editor have sought to publicly explain how this error could have been made. But we remain perplexed by the Times' slowness to acknowledge its errors after the fact, and some of the shaky justifications that Times' editors have made. We feel it important to outline these concerns with you directly so that they may be properly addressed and so our campaign can continue to have a productive working relationship with the Times.
I feel obliged to put into context just how egregious an error this story was. The New York Times is arguably the most important news outlet in the world and it rushed to put an erroneous story on the front page charging that a major candidate for President of the United States was the target of a criminal referral to federal law enforcement. Literally hundreds of outlets followed your story, creating a firestorm that had a deep impact that cannot be unwound. This problem was compounded by the fact that the Times took an inexplicable, let alone indefensible, delay in correcting the story and removing "criminal" from the headline and text of the story.
To review the facts, as the Times itself has acknowledged through multiple corrections, the paper's reporting was false in several key respects: first, contrary to what the Times stated, Mrs. Clinton is not the target of a criminal referral made by the State Department’s and Intelligence Community's Inspectors General, and second, the referral in question was not of a criminal nature at all.
Just as disturbing as the errors themselves is the Times' apparent abandonment of standard journalistic practices in the course of its reporting on this story.
First, the seriousness of the allegations that the Times rushed to report last Thursday evening demanded far more care and due diligence than the Times exhibited prior to this article's publication.
The Times' readers rightfully expect the paper to adhere to the most rigorous journalistic standards. To state the obvious, it is hard to imagine a situation more fitting for those standards to be applied than when a newspaper is preparing to allege that a major party candidate for President of the United States is the target of a criminal referral received by federal law enforcement.
This allegation, however, was reported hastily and without affording the campaign adequate opportunity to respond. It was not even mentioned by your reporter when our campaign was first contacted late Thursday afternoon. Initially, it was stated as reporting only on a memo – provided to Congress by the Inspectors General from the State Department and Intelligence Community – that raised the possibility of classified material traversing Secretary Clinton's email system. This memo — which was subsequently released publicly — did not reference a criminal referral at all. It was not until late Thursday night – at 8:36 pm – that your paper hurriedly followed up with our staff to explain that it had received a separate tip that the Inspectors General had additionally made a criminal referral to the Justice Department concerning Clinton's email use. Our staff indicated that we had no knowledge of any such referral – understandably, of course, since none actually existed – and further indicated that, for a variety of reasons, the reporter's allegation seemed implausible. Our campaign declined any immediate comment, but asked for additional time to attempt to investigate the allegation raised. In response, it was indicated that the campaign "had time," suggesting the publication of the report was not imminent.
Despite the late hour, our campaign quickly conferred and confirmed that we had no knowledge whatsoever of any criminal referral involving the Secretary. At 10:36 pm, our staff attempted to reach your reporters on the phone to reiterate this fact and ensure the paper would not be going forward with any such report. There was no answer. At 10:54 pm, our staff again attempted calling. Again, no answer. Minutes later, we received a call back. We sought to confirm that no story was imminent and were shocked at the reply: the story had just published on the Times' website.
This was, to put it mildly, an egregious breach of the process that should occur when a major newspaper like the Times is pursuing a story of this magnitude. Not only did the Times fail to engage in a proper discussion with the campaign ahead of publication; given the exceedingly short window of time between when the Times received the tip and rushed to publish, it hardly seems possible that the Times conducted sufficient deliberations within its own ranks before going ahead with the story.
Second, in its rush to publish what it clearly viewed as a major scoop, the Times relied on questionable sourcing and went ahead without bothering to seek corroborating evidence that could have supported its allegation.
In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG's referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton. Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either. This should have represented too many "degrees of separation" for any newspaper to consider it reliable sourcing, least of all The New York Times.
Times' editors have attempted to explain these errors by claiming the fault for the misreporting resided with a Justice Department official whom other news outlets cited as confirming the Times' report after the fact. This suggestion does not add up. It is our understanding that this Justice Department official was not the original source of the Times' tip. Moreover, notwithstanding the official's inaccurate characterization of the referral as criminal in nature, this official does not appear to have told the Times that Mrs. Clinton was the target of that referral, as the paper falsely reported in its original story.
This raises the question of what other sources the Times may have relied on for its initial report. It clearly was not either of the referring officials – that is, the Inspectors General of either the State Department or intelligence agencies – since the Times' sources apparently lacked firsthand knowledge of the referral documents. It also seems unlikely the source could have been anyone affiliated with those offices, as it defies logic that anyone so closely involved could have so severely garbled the description of the referral.
Of course, the identity of the Times' sources would be deserving of far less scrutiny if the underlying information had been confirmed as true. However, the Times appears to have performed little, if any, work to corroborate the accuracy of its sources' characterizations of the IG's referral. Key details went uninvestigated in the Times' race to publish these erroneous allegations against Mrs. Clinton. For instance, high in the Times' initial story, the reporters acknowledged they had no knowledge of whether or not the documents that the Times claimed were mishandled by Mrs. Clinton contained any classified markings. In Mrs. Clinton's case, none of the emails at issue were marked. This fact was quickly acknowledged by the IC inspector general’s office within hours of the Times' report, but it was somehow left unaddressed in the initial story.
Even after the Times' reporting was revealed to be false, the Times incomprehensibly delayed the issuance of a full and true correction.
Our campaign first sought changes from the Times as soon as the initial story was published. Recognizing the implausibility that Mrs. Clinton herself could be the subject of any criminal probe, we immediately challenged the story's opening line, which said the referral sought an investigation into Mrs. Clinton specifically for the mishandling of classified materials. In response, the Times' reporters admitted that they themselves had never seen the IG's referral, and so acknowledged the possibility that the paper was overstating what it directly knew when it portrayed the potential investigation as centering on Mrs. Clinton. It corrected the lead sentence accordingly.
The speed with which the Times conceded that it could not defend its lead citing Mrs. Clinton as the referral's target raises questions about what inspired its confidence in the first place to frame the story that way. More importantly, the Times' change was not denoted in the form of a correction. Rather, it was performed quietly, overnight, without any accompanying note to readers. This was troubling in its lack of transparency and risks causing the Times to appear like it is trying to whitewash its misreporting. A correction should have been posted promptly that night.
Regardless, even after this change, a second error remained in the story: the characterization of the referral as criminal at all. By Friday morning, multiple members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (who had been briefed by the Inspectors General) challenged this portrayal—and ultimately, so did the Department of Justice itself. Only then did the Times finally print a correction acknowledging its misstatement of the nature of the referral to the Justice Department.
Of course, the correction, coming as it did on a Friday afternoon, was destined to reach a fraction of those who read the Times' original, erroneous report. As the Huffington Post observed:
"…it's unlikely that the same audience will see the updated version unless the paper were to send out a second breaking news email with its latest revisions. The Clinton story also appeared [on] the front page of Friday's print edition."
Most maddening of all, even after the correction fixed the description of the referral within the story, a headline remained on the front page of the Times' website that read, “Criminal Inquiry is Sought in Clinton Email Account." It was not until even later in the evening that the word "criminal" was finally dropped from the headline and an updated correction was issued to the story. The lateness of this second correction, however, prevented it from appearing in the paper the following morning. We simply do not understand how that was allowed to occur.
Lastly, the Times' official explanations for the misreporting is profoundly unsettling.
In a statement to the Times' public editor, you said that the errors in the Times' story Thursday night were "unavoidable." This is hard to accept. As noted above, the Justice Department official that incorrectly confirmed the Times' initial reports for other outlets does not appear to have been the initial source for the Times. Moreover, it is precisely because some individuals may provide erroneous information that it is important for the Times to sift the good information from the bad, and where there is doubt, insist on additional evidence. The Times was under no obligation to go forward on a story containing such explosive allegations coming only from sources who refused to be named. If nothing else, the Times could have allowed the campaign more time to understand the allegation being engaged. Unfortunately, the Times chose to take none of these steps.
In closing, I wish to emphasize our genuine wish to have a constructive relationship with The New York Times. But we also are extremely troubled by the events that went into this erroneous report, and will be looking forward to discussing our concerns related to this incident so we can have confidence that it is not repeated in the future.
Hillary for America
Cc: Margaret Sullivan,
New York Times
Hey political reporters: Hillary Clinton's emails are about to ruin another Friday night.
Are you a reporter working the Hillary Clinton beat? Hope you didn't have plans for Friday evening, because chances are you'll be spending a late night at the office going through thousands of new Clinton emails on the US State Department's clunky Freedom of Information Act site. The agency confirmed to Mother Jones that the next batch of emails from her time as secretary of state is due to be released tomorrow. Subsequent batches will be released on the last business day of the month.
Officer Ray Tensing's body-cam footage has been released (see above).
The University of Cincinnati fired Tensing following the indictment. Tensing, who has turned himself in, is due to appear in court Thursday morning. Hamilton County sheriff's spokesman Michael Robison has told Associate Press that Tensing will be jailed overnight before his court appearance.
Samuel DuBose's family held a press conference in which his mother, Audrey DuBose, said, "I can forgive him. I can forgive anybody. God forgave us."
Mark O'Mara, an attorney representing the DuBose family, has asked the community to respond in a "peaceful and nonaggressive" manner to the news of Officer Tensing's indictment. In 2013 O'Mara represented George Zimmerman when he was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said in a statement, "We wanted the just, fair thing to be done, we wanted the truth to come out." He also noted that the Hamilton County Prosecutor was "not pushing an agenda, but doing the right thing." Cranley told reporters Tuesday that "everyone has the right to peacefully protest, but we will not tolerate lawlessness."
On Thursday morning Officer Tensing plead not guilty to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. The judge set his bond at $1 million.
Officials in Hamilton County, Ohio, released body-camera footage on Wednesday that shows the shooting death of Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man pulled over by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing on July 19 for driving without a front license plate.
The video was released as Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters announced that Tensing would be indicted on a charge of murder.
"I mean, it was so unnecessary for this to occur," Deters said when he announced the indictment. "This doesn't happen in the United States…People don't get shot for a traffic stop unless they're violent toward a police officer. And he wasn't." Later, Deters added that what happened was "without question a murder."
According to reports, the 43-year-old DuBose didn't produce identification after the traffic stop, and a scuffle ensued. Tensing had claimed he was dragged by DuBose's car, but Deters said in his press conference that wasn't the case.
DuBose's death comes on the heels of increased national scrutiny around police brutality. According to the Washington Post's analysis of police shootings, 555 people have been killed by police in 2015 thus far. The arming of campus police officers has also been on the rise: Seventy-five percent of four-year private and public colleges had armed officers during the 2011-12 school year, up from 68 percent in 2004-05, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
At one point Deters said the city should provide police services for the university.
"I just think [the Cincinnati Police Department] would be better suited to do this than university police," Deters said. "When you led to a murder like this, a shooting in the head where your stop was no front license plate—I mean, that's crazy. And if you see this family, how they're suffering from this, it's ridiculous that this happened."
Meanwhile, the University of Cincinnati canceled all classes on the Uptown and Medical campuses starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, bracing for a protest even before the grand jury decision was announced and the video was released.
Lindsay Scribner, a member of the UC Students Against Injustice, says her group is taking protest cues from the community and Black Lives Matter Cincinnati.
"The community isn't planning anything violent, but the police are expecting, waiting and provoking," Scribner told Mother Jones. "They are criminalizing the community, especially black members before they even do anything wrong. I've seen SWAT members, university police, Cincinnati Police, and Ohio State patrol men. They have everyone out here waiting for some black person to screw up."
In this July 13, 2015 video still-frame, emergency personnel carry a gurney near Sandra Bland's jail cell, at the Waller County jail in Hempstead, Texas.
Officials in Texas on Friday released two crucial documents in the ongoing investigation into to the death of Sandra Bland, the African American woman who was found dead in a Texas jail July 13, three days after her controversial roadside arrest. Bland's autopsy and custodial death report come amid doubts from her family about the official story of her death, namely that she hung herself. The autopsy results line up with the version of events that officials have made public so far: there were no signs of struggle on her body that would indicate her death was the result of a violent assault. The custodial death report provides a detailed narrative, written by police, related to Bland's arrest and entry into the jail. Read the full reports below.
A disturbing video taken in New York City shows police punching and beating a man who greeted the officers with his hands up.
The July 7 video, obtained and published by the New York Daily News, shows Thomas Jennings standing at the counter of a convenience store, raising his hands in surrender. A police officer approaches with a baton in his right hand and starts pushing him in the chest with his left. Jennings begins to back up with his hands in the air, when a second officer rushes in and starts punching Jennings in the head. The two officers then begin to handcuff Jennings' hands behind his back. After cuffing Jennings, one officer hits him in the back with the baton and uses his elbow to drive Jennings' face into the counter.
Jennings was arrested and accused of robbery, menacing, larceny, possession of stolen property, possession of a weapon, and resisting arrest, according to the criminal complaint obtained by Mother Jones. He was held without bail until July 13, and was then released.
According to the Daily News, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office and the NYPD are both reviewing the incident.
The incident apparently began at another store, where Jennings and another man tried to buy two slices of pizza. Jennings told the paper that he was a dollar short, so he stepped outside to ask someone for a quick loan. After he left, the other man allegedly pulled out a switchblade and told the employee that they weren't going to pay for the pizza. Then both men fled. Police tracked Jennings to another store, where the confrontation took place.
"It's horrendous what they did to him," Amy Rameau, Jennings' lawyer, told the Daily News. "He had his hands up. He didn't pose a threat to anyone in that store. It was an absolute use of excessive force."