Accuracy in Media

The sex-for-scoops scandal involving New York Times reporter Ali Watkins may be expanding.

Instead of having an affair with a man 30 years older than her for scoops on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the New York Times, her current employer, wrote Sunday that Watkins could have been in more affairs that led to scoops and that she has been less than forthcoming about these relationships and the conflicts of interest they impose.

She appears to have dated multiple members of the committee staff, including one prominent staffer shortly after she broke up with the man who is trouble for lying to investigators about his involvement with her. The Times story Sunday refers to multiple “previous relationships with staff members of the Senate committee.”

Watkins’ relationships with her sources became a public issue on June 7 when James Wolfe, 57, whose job was director of security for the committee, was arrested and charged with lying to investigators about his contacts with Watkins and three other journalists.

He claimed he did not spend any time away from work with Watkins, who developed several scoops believed to have come from Wolfe. But he relented when investigators, who seized Watkins’ phone and email records as part of their investigation, showed him photographs of the two together away from work.

The New York Times has begun an investigation into whether Watkins slept with other sources for scoops. “Now 26, Ms. Watkins was hired by The Times to cover federal law enforcement in December, about four months after she had said her relationship with Wolfe ended,” The Times wrote on Sunday.

“Times officials are currently examining her work history and what influence the relationship may have had on her reporting. The Times also is reviewing her decision, on advice of her personal lawyer, not to immediately tell her editors about a letter she received in February informing her that her records had been seized.”

The Times further noted that seizure of her personal communications “remains” … the “most important issue here.” But it devoted much of its story on Watkins on Sunday to delving into her affairs and what they might have meant for her reporting.

It also questions why Watkins told editors at The Times that a few days before her start date in December, she was approached by FBI agents asking questions about Wolfe but did not tell her editors in February when the Justice Department informed her investigators had seized some of her email and phone records. She did reveal it to her Times editors when she knew the story of Wolfe’s arrest was about to break.

Indeed, two days after the Justice Department informed her it had seized her communications records, Watkins brought a box of chocolates into the Times Washington Bureau office. She offered them to colleagues over email, saying she had gotten them “from an old source who somehow thought it wouldn’t be creepy to bring them to a dinner, stupidly and unintentionally scheduled on valentine’s day.”

The dinner companion, The Times wrote, “was not Mr. Wolfe, but a different Washington national security veteran.”

She also appears to have been less than candid with her editors at Politico about relationships that could pose conflict-of-interest problems. Watkins had said she was dating someone on the committee but that he was not a source. They were “surprised” to find out the man she was dating was indeed a high-ranking staffer.

In the fall, she began to date another committee staffer. She said she told Politico editors about this as well, but Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Politico, said, “Politico editors were not made aware of this relationship.”

The Times reported Watkins told friends she wanted off the beat but her editors at Politico would not move her because they were “eager for scoops about the Trump-Russia investigation.”





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