NY Times: Oops, Never Mind

Over the years, we have tracked a number of newspaper corrections (as often as not featuring the New York Times) where, if you match the belated correction against the original article, the conclusion is that the article was pointless and never should have been published. This is a good example of that genre. Today the New York Times issued this correction on a front page “news” story attacking President Trump:


An article on Monday about corporate lobbying in Washington misstated the timing of a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the chief executive of the arms maker Raytheon. David Urban, a lobbyist close to Mr. Pompeo and President Trump, requested the meeting more than two weeks before Mr. Pompeo issued an emergency waiver in May 2019 allowing Raytheon to proceed with arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but according to the State Department the meeting took place in June, after the waiver was issued, not a few months before.

On its face, you can see the significance of the correction. The article was “about corporate lobbying in Washington;” it claimed that a lobbyist arranged a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo which was followed by a decision that was favorable to Raytheon, but in reality, the meeting followed a month or more after the favorable decision.

To appreciate fully how completely the correction torpedoes the original story, you have to follow the link and infer what the Times originally (and falsely) claimed. The story was, of course, an attack on President Trump, headlined “Trump Vowed to ‘Drain the Swamp,’ but Lobbyists Are Helping Run His Campaign.” And the centerpiece of the story was David Urban, Mike Pompeo and Raytheon. The article begins:

The chief executive of the arms maker Raytheon, under pressure to overcome a congressional hold on major sales in the fall of 2018, wanted to sit down with one of the few people who could solve the problem — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

But the State Department would not schedule the meeting. So Raytheon turned for help to David Urban, perhaps the best-connected lobbyist in President Trump’s Washington.
He has close ties to Mr. Trump, who credits him with having helped deliver a pivotal Election Day victory in Pennsylvania in 2016 and recently invited Mr. Urban to fly on Marine One with him to West Point. He has a long roster of blue-chip clients, including military contractors like Raytheon, whose chief executive got the meeting he wanted with Mr. Pompeo after Mr. Urban intervened on his behalf.

This was the windup, but it turns out there is no pitch:

The meeting was requested by Mr. Urban more than two weeks before the State Department issued an emergency waiver in May 2019 that circumvented the congressional hold on the arms deals, allowing billions of dollars in Raytheon missiles and bombs to be sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

So what? This is where the correction kicks in:

The meeting took place in June several weeks after the issuance of the waiver, the State Department said.

In other words, there was never a story in the first place. David Urban is a lobbyist so powerful that he was able to schedule a meeting with the Secretary of State weeks after the relevant decision had already been made. The Times story, as it now stands, is pathetic.

This is typical of the Times. It has forfeited any claim to accuracy, let alone objectivity. It reports half-baked rumors, politically inspired leaks, and non-stories like this one in order to promote its Democratic Party. Beyond that, it has a terrible sports section. But at least the sports section doesn’t require a lot of corrections.

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