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August 4, 2005
The Gray Lady Turns Into The National Enquirer

Note: This originally appeared as an update on my post about Jon Corzine and the article regarding the loan to his ex-girlfriend. I'm posting it separately instead.

Speaking of news priorities, now we know why the Paper of Record has failed to report on Air America's misappropriation of city grant monies earmarked for poor kids and Alzheimer's patients. Drudge reports that the Times would rather try to dig up dirt on the adopted children of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts:

The NEW YORK TIMES is looking into the adoption records of the children of Supreme Court Nominee John G. Roberts, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

The TIMES has investigative reporter Glen Justice hot on the case to investigate the status of adoption records of Judge Roberts two young children, Josie age 5 and Jack age 4, a top source reveals. ...

A TIMES insider claims the look into the adoption papers are part of the paper's "standard background check."

I didn't realize that Supreme Court appointees had to pass a New York Times "standard background check". Silly me. I thought that the Times' job was to report news, not dig up personal dirt about the adoption of minors by political figures.

Addendum: I predict that nothing will come of this, and the Times will have nothing to report -- allowing them to claim that Drudge got the scoop wrong. It could also be that Drudge has a bad source; it happens. (Look at Walter Pincus' and Nicholas Krystof's source for the Niger report.) Whatever the reason, now that Drudge has published this claim, no one will ever see a Times report detailing the mechanics of the Roberts' adoptions. This kind of muckraking simply has to fly under the radar until something scandalous pops out -- otherwise the understandable public outrage into such an invasion of the children's privacy winds up burying any sensational claims.

UPDATE: CQ reader Creature of Habit sent an e-mail complaining about this development to the Times, which responded with lightning speed:

While the public editor does not usually get involved in pre-publication matters, Bill Keller, the executive editor of the paper, told us that he would not stand for any gratuitous reporting about the Roberts's children. He said that as an adoptive parent he is particularly sensitive about this issue.

In addition, a senior editor at the paper wrote, "In the case of Judge Roberts's family, our reporters made initial inquiries about the adoptions, as they did about many other aspects of his background. They did so with great care, understanding the sensitivity of the issue. We did not order up an investigation of the adoptions. We have not pursued the issue after the initial inquiries, which detected nothing irregular about the adoptions."

One of Michelle Malkin's readers received much the same reply. (Michelle also includes the reader's rebuttal to it.)

My reaction? I don't care how much "sensitivity" the Times thinks they showed to the Roberts during their inquiries. The adoption of their children doesn't have anything to do with Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court. If they had a tip with substantiation that he used his influence to do something illegal, then asking around about it would be understandable, if potentially explosive when handled incorrectly. However, just because the Roberts chose to adopt does not give the Times the moral authority to start asking questions about it as part of a "standard background check" or any other kind of investigation. The Times should confine their interest to points germane to Roberts' ability to perform as a Supreme Court jurist, not go on fishing trips into the most personal parts of his family life.

If Bill Keller can't tell the difference between the New York Times and the National Enquirer, it's no wonder that his readers can't, either.

UPDATE II: Brit Hume reports at his Fox blog that the Times reporters wanted to look into the sealed adoption records, and that they had no particular reason for asking:

The New York Times has been asking lawyers who specialize in adoption cases for advice on how to get into the sealed court records on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' two adopted children.

There is no indication The Times had any evidence there was anything improper in the family's adoption of five-year-old Josie and four-year-old Jack, both born in Latin America. Sources familiar with the matter told FOX News that at least one lawyer turned the Times down flat, saying that any effort to pry into adoption case records, which are always sealed, would be reprehensible.

Well, we have anonymous sourcing, which doesn't make for a definitive statement. I'd prefer that the attorneys who heard this come forward and say exactly who did the asking. If the Times has asked attorneys to find a legal way to do something unethical and downright despicable, then we should hear who at the Times has made those calls.

That being said, since Bill Keller and his staff have already admitted to making inquiries about the adoptions despite having no cause to suspect anything unusual about them, then this has some credibility. If true, it demonstrates an even lower moral and ethical standard at the Times than previously suspected. One of my commenters may have been right to scold me about my comparison of the Gray Lady to the National Enquirer; that may be unfair to the latter.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 4, 2005 5:08 PM

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» Have They No Decency? from The Sundries Shack
I can only hope that this report isn’t true. The NEW YORK TIMES is looking into the adoption records of the children of Supreme Court Nominee John G. Roberts, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. The TIMES has investigative reporter Glen Justice h... [Read More]

Tracked on August 4, 2005 5:32 PM

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Glen Justice, the reporter who already got a major story about John Kerry's visits to Paris wrong (requiring a correction from the New York Times), is the reporter entrusted to dig up whatever dirt can be found about Judge Roberts' children. [Read More]

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