New York Times Goes Medieval On Us

What with all the "jousting" and "skirmishing" going on in the paper’s story about appeals court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, certain basic facts fell through the cracks.

What with all the “jousting” and “skirmishing” going on in the New York Timesstory today about appeals court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, the reporting of certain basic facts, it seems, fell through the cracks.

From the pull-quote accompanying Neil A. Lewis’ piece we learn that in Kavanaugh “Republicans see a qualified candidate; Democrats see an inexperienced one.”

And all readers get to “see” is an adorable Kavanaugh family photo — complete with barefoot infant and doting grandma. (Hey, the guy is clearly qualified for the title of Cutest Family of All Bush Judicial Nominees — or could have been a contender, had John Roberts not already walked off with the honor.)

So is Kavanaugh a “breathtakingly qualified candidate who would make an excellent jurist,” as Lewis reports Republicans contend? Or is he “at 41, too inexperienced, too partisan, and not up to the job of sitting on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia,” as Lewis reports “Democrats said”?

Readers hoping to decide for themselves are out of luck, as Lewis does not provide any details of Kavanaugh’s work history (“breathtaking,” “partisan” or otherwise) beyond his age and that he is currently “a senior aide to Mr. Bush” — specifically “staff secretary.” What did Kavanaugh do before he joined the Bush team? Was he a partner in a hotshot D.C. law firm? A blogger for How does Kavanaugh’s resume compare to that of the typical D.C. appeals court judge?

In other words, partisan claims and counter-claims aside, is this guy actually qualified or not?

Who can tell from Lewis’ “he-jousts, she-jousts” report?

But for readers not inclined to take Republicans’ or Democrats’ word for it, Lewis does mention in his final paragraph the American Bar Association’s ranking of the nominee (in the context, of course, of telling us how each side is spinning the ranking).

“Democrats also tried to highlight the announcement by the American Bar Association on Monday that while Mr. Kavanaugh was ranked as ‘qualified’ for the post … his ranking has been significantly downgraded from a year before,” Lewis writes. “Republicans noted that at no time did any member of a bar association committee find that Mr. Kavanaugh was unqualified.”

All of which leaves us wondering who at the Times is “qualified” to cover the political “jousting” still to come in 2006?

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.