Accuracy in Media

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet defended the newspaper against allegations of bias in favoring Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, but also admitted that Biden’s campaign influenced its editing choices.

The newspaper headlined the newspaper’s struggles, “The Times Took 19 Days to Report an Accusation Against Biden. Here’s Why.”

The reflective piece focused on the Times’ latest article on sexual assault allegations against Biden, made by a former Biden Senate staffer named Tara Reade.

The reflective article was written in a question-and-answer format, with Baquet answering Times media columnist Ben Smith’s questions on the newspaper’s reporting. One of the questions referred to at least one stealth edit made in the newspaper’s article on Reade’s allegations.

One of the sentences was changed from, “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden, beyond the hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable” to “The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.”

No editor’s note was published to detail why the sentence was changed, to which Baquet said that they “didn’t think it was a factual mistake.”

Baquet “didn’t think that was necessary” to issue an editor’s note or explanation for the edit.

Baquet also admitted that the Biden campaign influenced its edits.

“I think 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,” he said. “And that’s not what the sentence was intended to say.”

It is fair for political campaigns to object to articles and recommend edits, but the New York Times chose to ignore several claims about Biden’s past “unwanted touching” incidents ranging from hugs and kisses. By one count, at least seven women have shared stories of unwanted touching by the former vice president. Although those incidents are not sexual misconduct allegations, they are examples of Biden’s inappropriate behavior which were edited out at the Biden campaign’s request.

The New York Times doubled down on its defense of lacking transparency in its edits but also admitted that the Biden campaign influenced its edits.

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