Friday, July 21, 2017

Letter to the NY Times about Rosenstein memo

Friday, July 21, 2017

To the editor:

The July 19 piece "Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions" repeats an error that the Times and many other news sources have made about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's 5/9/17 memo criticizing then-FBI Director James Comey.

The article states that "The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired". Not so. Nowhere does Rosenstein's memo actually recommended that Mr. Comey be fired.

Rosenstein surely made this omission deliberately, and carefully. Did Rosenstein craft his memo to appear to cross a line, when skimmed, which Rosenstein refused to actually cross? The memo's content, in contrast to the President's use of it, certainly lends credence to reports that the President had demanded a recommendation that Mr. Comey be fired -- and assumed he got it.

The Times has been more careful and precise in past articles, such as the 5/12/17 "Caught in White House Chaos, Justice Dept. Official Seeks Neutral Ground", which discusses Rosenstein's memo at length and never claims that it contains a recommendation that Mr. Comey be dismissed.

Over time, many media outlets have let the inertia of conventional wisdom slowly replace reportorial precision. The Times should hold itself to a higher standard.

-Ben Wheeler
Brooklyn, NY

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