Alessandra Stanley, wrong again: Brian Williams, collateral damage, and The New York Times misremembers its own shoddy reporting

NYT coverage of Brian Williams mess repeats discredited and just plain bad reporting about a Connecticut senator

By Colin McEnroe
Published February 6, 2015 8:50PM (EST)
                  (NBC News)
(NBC News)

This story originally appeared on Colin McEnroe's blog for the Hartford Courant

The collateral damage from the whole Brian Williams mess is the revival of “the Richard Blumenthal case,” mentioned in about 75 percent of the Williams stories. There’s a kind of “stepped on” quality to the way the New York Times repeats the mistakes it originally made in its largely disgraceful reporting of the Blumenthal story.

So here’s Alessandra Stanley in today’s Times:

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut stumbled during his 2010 campaign when The New York Times found a videotape of him telling a veterans group in 2008 that he had served in Vietnam. He hadn’t. Mr. Blumenthal sought multiple deferments, and when he ran out of them in 1970, he won a coveted niche in the Marine Reserve in Washington.

That videotape was the biggest hammer Blumenthal got hit with when the Times broke the story on page one. In fact, it was ultimately discredited. Raymond Hernandez, whose reporting on this story was just horrible and hand-fed to him by operatives for Linda McMahon, had never seen the whole speech, just the part that was selectively leaked to him.

As the AP later reported, the full version of the speech “shows Blumenthal at the beginning of his speech correctly characterizing his service by saying that he ‘served in the military, during the Vietnam era.’ "

Now go back and read what Stanley wrote today. She’s repeating the original mistake because the Times institutionally “remembers” something that’s not really true.

I’m not offering an exoneration of Blumenthal. There were pretty clearly other more blameworthy occasions.  But it intrigues me that the Times, in the course of ripping up Williams, commits a similar offense of misremembering its own bad reporting as gospel.

Colin McEnroe

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Alessandra Stanley Brian Willams Iraq Media Criticism New York Times Richard Blumenthal Shot Down Vietnam