A recent story from the New York Times claimed that President Donald Trump's administration suppressed a vital draft report on climate change, and that the report was "leaked" to the publication by a scientist. Yet the report had actually been available online since January.
The Times wrote that the draft report had "not been made public" but ensured its readers that "a copy of it was obtained" by the publication. It's not clear how the publication made the major mistake, or how it was realized, but climate scientist Bob Kopp pointed out on Twitter that it had been available on the Internet Archive since January.
According to The Hill, it was also available on the National Academies of Sciences Public Access Records Office website.
The Times subsequently issued a correction, positioned at the bottom of the article, and it said:
An article on Tuesday about a sweeping federal climate change report referred incorrectly to the availability of the report. While it was not widely publicized, the report was uploaded by the nonprofit Internet Archive in January; it was not first made public by The New York Times.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders harshly criticized the newspaper for its claims. "It’s very disappointing, yet entirely predictable to learn The New York Times would write off a draft report without first verifying its contents with the White House or any of the federal agencies directly involved with climate and environmental policy," Sanders said in a statement, according to The Hill. "As others have pointed out — and The New York Times should have noticed — drafts of this report have been published and made widely available online months ago during the public comment period."
"The White House will withhold comment on any draft report before its scheduled release date," she added."
As Trump has continuously attacked the media since his campaign days, newspapers' task of being error-free has become more vital — particularly given how eager Trump's cohort is to attack any media outlet perceived as making even a minor mistake. "Any intimation that the Trump administration is blocking or somehow suppressing a dire climate-change study is explosive stuff, in large part because it would align with actual transparency problems," Erik Wemple wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday.
The Times' Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller weighed in, too: "we were just not aware that somebody involved in the report had put a draft on this nonprofit Internet site."
"It was not a well-known site to us and the point is that the people who shared the draft with us were not aware of it either," she continued. "That doesn’t change the larger point that scientists were worried that the government wouldn’t approve the report or release it through normal channels."