It was the latest in a series of high-profile blunders that has caused embarrassment to James Bennet since he was appointed in 2016 as the editor overseeing The Times’ Opinion section.
Bennet’s tenure has been marked with several mishaps that have generated controversy, drawn criticism, and spurred at least one lawsuit.
A spokesperson for The Times declined to make Bennet available for an interview for this story, but defended the Opinion section by pointing to its talented writers and the good work they have produced.
“Opinion produces powerful journalism that makes a difference in people’s lives from the ground-breaking, on-going Privacy Project to an editorial series on laws that value a fetus over the life of the mother, to an on-camera essay by Alysia Montaño that resulted in a number of companies changing their contracts with female athletes to protect women during and after pregnancy,” the spokesperson for The Times said in a statement to CNN Business. “The diversity and quality of this work is being embraced not just by readers but by professional peers.”
But while the Opinion section has unquestionably produced strong work in the years since Bennet took over, it has also been culpable for some of the biggest journalistic black eyes at The Times during that period.
The allegation in the book hinged on the recollection of a Yale classmate who The Times reported contacted the FBI and lawmakers during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. The Yale classmate, who is now a prominent lawyer, has declined to comment publicly, according to The Times.
But the book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh,” included a key detail that the essay published by the Times was lacking: The woman at the center of it, who’d been a student at the time of the incident, declined to be interviewed. Moreover, her friends said she did not recall the incident.
In addition to that omission of vital information, The Times’ Opinion desk also came under fire over a tweet it had published promoting the story. The tweet said that “having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.”
“The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident,” the editor’s note read, in part. “That information has been added to the article.”
The weekend flub was one in a series of botched stories.
Sprinkled in between have been other mishaps, including a Twitter poll related to the Kavanaugh hearings. The poll asked whether readers found the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, to be “credible.” The Times later deleted it, saying it was “insensitive in light of the gravity of the hearing.”