NYTimes edits Joe Biden accusations article - iMediaEthics

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The New York Times edited a story earlier this month about a sexual assault allegation against former vice president Joe Biden after publication. Former Senate aide, Tara Reade, accused Biden in 2020 of assaulting her in 1993; Biden denies the claims.

Specifically, the Times changed the sentence:

“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 read only:

“The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.”

The Times deleted a tweet that included the now-changed text and posted a follow-up tweet saying, “We’ve deleted a tweet in this thread that had some imprecise language that has been changed in the story,” Mediaite reported.

In an interview with the New York Times’ media columnist Ben Smith, Times executive editor Dean Baquet said, “Even though a lot of us, including me, had looked at it before the story went into the paper, I think that the 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. And that’s not what the sentence was intended to say.”

Baquet said the Times “didn’t think it was a factual mistake” but “an awkward phrasing issue.” The Times’ Smith’s column was headlined, “The Times took 19 days to report an accusation against Biden. Here’s Why.” The Q & A portion of the article reports Baquet’s comments that the Times waited to conduct more reporting after Tara Reade’s accusations, which Biden denies.

A Times spokesperson told iMediaEthics,

“Our new reporting on Reade’s allegation did not find a pattern of sexual misconduct by Biden. After our initial publication, we edited one clause that was imprecise and deleted a tweet that used the same imprecise wording. Our story documents unwanted behavior cited by other women that we covered last year; we have not described that behavior as “sexual misconduct” in part because some women said such behavior with them was not misconduct. Our intention was to focus on what our new reporting found, rather than conflate the new reporting and the complaints made about Biden’s behavior last year. 

“In order to be fair and accurate, our editors are always open to critical feedback from readers, sources, subjects or others on any story. Editors and the standards desk decide if any edits or corrections are warranted.  In this case, the decision to edit the story was made solely by our Politics editor. For context, when the Biden campaign publicly criticized multiple lines of coverage last October, editors reviewed their concerns and decided no changes were warranted.”

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