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New York Times says it was a mistake to enlist writer who posted anti-Kavanaugh tweet to report on him

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy on the court left by retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The New York Times said on Tuesday that it should not have allowed a staff writer who had tweeted negatively about Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, to report on the judge for a story published Monday.

Emily Bazelon, who is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and a fellow at Yale Law School, co-authored a story published on Monday about a bar fight in 1985 during which Kavanaugh was accused of throwing ice at another customer. The Times’ story was based on a police report about the incident.

But Bazelon had posted a tweet in July in which she called Kavanaugh a “5th vote for a hard-right turn on voting rights and so much more that will harm the democratic process & prevent a more equal society.”

That tweet drew the attention of a number of critics who contended Bazelon’s opposition to Kavanaugh presented a conflict of interest for The Times.

“What motivated New York Times reporter to write this ridiculous story?” Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, asked on Twitter. “Throwing ice 33 years ago, or her opinion of Judge Kavanaugh in July?”

Josh Holmes, the former chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, tweeted, “As someone who has worked with press my entire career, and respects the vast majority, this kind of thing destroys my ability to tell conservatives they’re not out to get you. This is outrageous.”

A spokesperson for The Times said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the story Bazelon contributed to was “straightforward, fact-based and we fully stand behind it.” The spokesperson, however, said the reporting should have been assigned to another person.

“Emily Bazelon is a writer for The New York Times Magazine who occasionally writes op-eds for the opinion section. She is not a newsroom reporter,” the spokesperson for The Times said. “Her role in this story was to help colleagues in the newsroom gather public documents in New Haven, where Emily is based. In retrospect, editors should have used a newsroom reporter for that assignment.”

This is the second instance in recent weeks in which The Times has been widely criticized for alleged bias against conservatives. In mid-September, the newspaper amended a report that improperly blamed pricey curtains on Nikki Haley, the United Nations ambassador, after a storm of outrage.

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