New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet has admitted that the newspaper was “overly cautious” in how it handled a new rape accusation last week against US President Donald Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll.
The Times “should have played it bigger,” he conceded in an interview in the newspaper Monday as he responded to complaints about the tepid coverage.
Carroll, a well-known advice columnist, detailed the alleged assault in the mid-1990s in New York Magazine last week. Carroll said that she and Trump struck up a conversation in Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman department store before he pinned her against a wall in a dressing room and raped her. With Carroll’s allegation, 23 women have now accused Trump of sexual misconduct.
Trump has denied the allegation and claims he has never met Carroll — though she provided a photo that included the two of them for the magazine piece.
Carroll’s accusation was reported in the Times’ Book section because her account was an excerpt in the writer’s upcoming book.
Times readers wondered why “we didn’t give the allegations more attention,” Reader Center staff editor Lara Takenaga noted in the newspaper Monday. “Some questioned whether the lack of prominence showed too much deference to the president’s denials.”
Baquet conceded to Takenaga that the critics were “right that The Times had underplayed the article — though he said it had not been because of deference to the president,“ she wrote.
Baquet explained that the Times typically reports on sexual assault accusations only if it can locate witnesses who are willing to go on the record. The paper did speak to Carroll and to two friends who were told by Carroll of the alleged assault at the time, but they did not want their names revealed.
But Carroll’s case should have merited more attention because her accusation was widely covered in the press last week — and it involved the president. “In retrospect ... the fact that a well-known person was making a very public allegation against a sitting president ‘should’ve compelled us to play it bigger,’” Baquet conceded in Takenaga’s article.
The Times is “continuing to report” on Carroll’s accusations, Takenaga noted.
Carroll’s startling account also attracted almost no attention on the Sunday morning talk shows on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox News. The writer did, however, recount the accusation with more detail in an interview Monday on CNN.
Lawyer George Conway, husband of White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, warned last week in a scathing op-ed piece in The Washington Post that Republicans should take Carroll’s accusation “seriously.” He said it was far more credible than an accusation of rape against Bill Clinton by Juanita Broaddrick that the GOP made much of.
Conway said Carroll’s allegation is particularly credible because 22 other women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Conway also cited Trump’s “depraved” remarks on an “Access Hollywood” tape that he could “grab” women by their genitals whenever he wanted. “When you’re a star ... you can do anything,” he boasted.