New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said Monday that the paper “underplayed” writer E. Jean Carroll’s accusations last week that President Trump sexually assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the mid-’90s.
Baquet said readers who criticized the paper’s coverage were right to accuse it of underplaying the story, and said it should have been placed more prominently on the Times’ website. He said the paper was overly cautious because its journalists had no way to independently verify Carroll’s accusations. They were included in an excerpt from Carroll’s upcoming book, “What Do We Need Men For?,” that was published Friday by New York Magazine.
Baquet said the Times was not able to find anyone other than the two friends Carroll cited in her book to support her story. Baquet said the paper’s reporting on sexual misconduct accusations against Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly established guidelines for reporting on such stories. The guidelines include “locating sources outside those mentioned by the accusers who not only corroborate the allegations but also are willing to go on the record,” he said.
“We were playing by rules that didn’t quite apply,” Baquet said. “They’ve allowed us to break major stories, from Bill O’Reilly to Harvey Weinstein. But in this case, it was a different kind of story.”
Carroll accused Trump of sexual assault in a department store dressing room, and accused CBS chief Les Moonves of aggressive groping in an elevator. Both men denied the attacks, which Carroll said took place in the mid-1990s. On Monday, Trump strongly denied the accusation in an interview with The Hill, and said Carroll was lying.
“I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?” he said. “Totally lying. I don’t know anything about her.”
The Times initially ran the story in the paper’s books section, rather than on the front page. It eventually made it onto the paper’s homepage on Saturday night, and a print story ran on Sunday.
Baquet concluded that the Times should have placed the story more prominently because it involved a well-known individual making a very public accusation against a sitting president.