NYT Accused of Bias for Hiring Intern With Democratic Political Ties

Tuesday, 24 Jun 2014 12:36 PM

By Melanie Batley

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The New York Times is being accused of bias for assigning an intern who has worked in Democratic circles to write a story about the Mississippi Republican Senate primary, The Washington Post reported.

Political pundit Charles Johnson said the Times article on Monday by Theodore Schleifer  was "a hit piece." Commentary on the Internet followed, saying there was a potential conflict of interest given Schleifer's past involvement with Democrats, including previous work for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.

"The incestuous relationship between the mainstream media and Democratic Party has headed down to Mississippi," Erick Erickson wrote on Redstate.com.

He added, "Schiefer [sic] . . . is also quite proud of [an earlier] hit piece on then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels [written for his college newspaper]. He seems like he'll be a good liberal reporter. Obama connections and The New York Times tend to go hand in hand these days."

New York Times associate managing editor for standards, Philip Corbett, said he was aware of Schleifer 's work for the Democrats before he was hired and told the Post, "We are confident that his work for us is solid, accurate, and fair, and that we can avoid any potential conflicts of interest."

Schleifer, a 2014 Princeton University graduate, was a speechwriting intern on the 2012 Obama campaign and in 2011 worked for the Department of Education. In both capacities, he drafted talking points and speeches for surrogates, the Post reported.

"A background working in politics can be a plus for a columnist or a TV pundit, who principally offers opinions," the Post's Paul Farhi wrote, citing the examples of former Times columnist William Safire and Post columnist Michael Gerson.  "Although news organizations typically shy away from hiring reporters who have backgrounds in partisan politics to avoid conflicts, the line has been crossed before."

Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News were both White House operatives, the Post noted, while NBC News reporter Pete Williams worked as a press secretary for then-Rep. Dick Cheney and as a Pentagon spokesman under President George H.W. Bush. Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush Hager, daughters of former presidents, are also employed as commentators by NBC News, the Post said.

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