New York Times Front Page Story on Climate Change ‘Leak’ Unravels

Newspaper claimed White House might suppress report that had been public since January.

August 10, 2017 11:16 am

A recent front-page story from The New York Times fell apart this week, when it was revealed the “leak” of an Trump administration climate change draft report wasn’t really a leak after all. In fact, the draft had been published online since the beginning of the year.

This was significant because it blew a big hole in the Times story’s premise—that the Trump White House might suppress or alter the draft report, which found even more conclusive evidence of man-made climate change, before the final findings saw the light of day. The Trump administration has previously come under fire for pulling out of the Paris Accord climate change deal and for removing climate change information on public-facing government websites.

What’s more, the subsequent Times’ correction, placed at the end of the story, was criticized for not thoroughly conveying how the previous public release of the report undermines the story’s framing. As the Washington Post notes: “Given the magnitude of the screw-up, [the correction] should sit atop the story, surrounded by red flashing lights and perhaps an audio track to instruct readers: Warning: This story once peddled a faulty and damaging premise.”

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders blasted the Times story: “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.”

Elisabeth Bumiller, the Times Washington bureau chief explained the newspaper’s oversight by saying: “We spent a lot of time trying to sort out where it had appeared before…Again, we just didn’t know. The reporter just didn’t know and the editors didn’t know and once it was brought to our attention, we sorted it out.”

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