Strike Two for Pair of New York Times Reporters

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Today, FBI director James Comey said the San Bernardino shooters never talked openly about violent jihadism on social media: “So far, in this investigation we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period in time and thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom. I’ve seen some reporting on that, and that’s a garble.”

So where did this notion come from, anyway? The answer is a New York Times story on Sunday headlined “U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Zealotry on Social Media.” It told us that Tashfeen Malik “talked openly” on social media about jihad and that, “Had the authorities found the posts years ago, they might have kept her out of the country.” The story was written by Matt Apuzzo, Michael Schmidt, and Julia Preston.

Do those names sound familiar? They should. The first two were also the authors of July’s epic fail claiming that Hillary Clinton was the target of a criminal referral over the mishandling of classified information in her private email system. In the end, virtually everything about the story turned out to be wrong. Clinton was not a target. The referral was not criminal. And as the story itself noted, the emails in question had most likely not been classified at the time Clinton saw them.

Assuming Comey is telling the truth, that’s two strikes. Schmidt and Apuzzo either have some bad sources somewhere, or else they have one really bad source somewhere. And coincidentally or not, their source(s) have provided them with two dramatic but untrue scoops that make prominent Democrats look either corrupt or incompetent. For the time being, Schmidt and Apuzzo should be considered on probation. That’s at least one big mistake too many.

UPDATE: The New York Times has asked for a correction to my characterization of the July 23 Schmidt/Apuzzo piece about Hillary Clinton’s email. “Our story never said that a probe or investigation had been opened,” their representative writes. That is correct. It said there had been a request for a criminal investigation.

Also: “The story does not say that the emails had been classified at the time Clinton saw them.” True enough. My apologies for implying otherwise. I have corrected the text of the post.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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