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PolitiFact corrects conservatives: The NYT Kavanaugh story has not been debunked

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The new report from The New York Times on the allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh contained some stunning new revelations — including that several people tried to contact the FBI to corroborate Deborah Ramirez’s assault allegation but were ignored, and that prominent attorney Max Stier alleges he saw Kavanaugh take part in a third assault.

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But conservative news sites are now running with the idea that the Times article has been discredited and that the paper has retracted its claims. PJ Media, a prominent right-wing site, ran the headline “New York Times Now Admits New Kavanaugh Accusation Is Fake News.”

On Wednesday, PolitiFact dropped the hammer on this narrative. There may have been some editorial missteps in how the Times rolled out the story, and there was a key fact omitted from Stier’s allegation — but nothing reported in the story was factually inaccurate.

At issue specifically is one line that was meant to appear in the paragraph detailing Stier’s story that was mistakenly deleted and later added back in — and which contextualizes the charge: “the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode.” This doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen — it was decades ago and she was intoxicated at the time — but the fact the alleged victim cannot corroborate the story herself is clearly something that should be noted.

Mistake though it may have been, PolitiFact noted, this is not the same thing as saying the entire story is “fake news.”

“As the above text shows, the Times’ explanation may call Stier’s allegation into question. But nowhere does the Times admit it peddled ‘fake news,’ which gives the impression of having misled its readers,” wrote PolitiFact. “For their part, Times’ reporters [Kate] Kelly and [Robin] Pogrebin appeared on MSNBC and said the additional details were included in their original draft but were omitted as a result of an editing error. ‘There was zero intent to mislead anybody about the details of the incident,’ Kelly said.”

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“The Times also did not retract the article or the specific allegation against Kavanaugh, as PJ Media said,” continued PolitiFact. “A retraction would include removing the allegation entirely because it cannot be corroborated. The source of this allegation is Max Stier, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s.”

“The Times has not retracted its reporting on the allegation or admitted it was incorrect,” concluded PolitiFact. “Sites claiming so have gone too far.”


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