Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Nevermind: The New York Times yesterday published an article assailing John Roberts over a memo that he wrote criticizing the Supreme Court's decision in New York Times v. Sullivan.
There was just one problem with the article -- Roberts didn't write the memo that was the basis of the article, Bruce Fein did.
An article yesterday about Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s views on libel law attributed a critique of a Supreme Court decision to him erroneously. Mr. Roberts did criticize the decision, New York Times v. Sullivan, in a 1985 memorandum. But a separate unsigned 30-page critique that was among the papers released from his years as a lawyer in the Reagan administration was not his; it was written by Bruce Fein, who was general counsel for the Federal Communications Commission in the Reagan administration. A corrective article appears today, here. (Go to Article)
Unfortunately, the Times' link to the corrective article also points to the erroneous article. You can read that article here.
I'd be curious to hear the backstory on this mistake. What made the Times believe the unsigned memo was authored by Roberts. Was this an honest mistake? Most newspapers I'd give the benefit of the doubt, but this seems to be the type of shoddy work I'd imagine that Bill Keller's minions would do, so, according to the Keller standard, it must be the worst explanation I can think of.
*UPDATE* A letter posted at Romenesko's Media blog poses the same question.
9/28/2005 3:14:09 PM
From JOHN WALTER: Missing from the astonishing New York Times correction on their Roberts libel memo story is any hint of WHO mistakenly identified the memo's author. One is sent scrambling back to yesterday's text, only to find that the original story quotes no source on this; it just states his authorship as fact. Does that mean Adam Liptak reached a false conclusion himself, finding the document among other papers; if so, isn't it the Times correction formula to say "Due to a reporter's error"? Or, instead, was Liptak misled by Someone Who Had an Agenda -- and the Times just 'fessed up to this yet?
I don't expect that we're going to find out the answer to this question.