The New York Times' practice of ignoring an upstart conservative news site called the Washington Free Beacon has resulted in not only unflattering headlines for the 164-year-old newspaper, but it has also thrown the Gray Lady's objectivity into question.
"I can't speak to the motivations of the New York Times, but can only marvel at the fact that they'd rather come across as partisan campaign operatives than respond to legitimate inquiries from a news outlet like the Free Beacon," the group's editor-in-chief, Matthew Continetti, told the Washington Examiner's media desk.
On Sunday, the Free Beacon reported that the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund had received a $100,000 donation in 2008 from the Clinton Family Foundation. The donation was made the same year that the newspaper endorsed former first lady Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party primary over then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
When reached for comment by the Free Beacon, the Times refused to answer the conservative news group's questions. It wasn't until after the Free Beacon had already published its story that the Times decided to explain itself — to Politico's Dylan Byers.
"The Free Beacon story is preposterous from start to finish," Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Byers in an email.
Murphy eventually responded to the Free Beacon's reporter, Alana Goodman, writing in an email Monday morning that, "NO donation to The Neediest Cases Fund has ever had any impact on a Times endorsement. Not this one. Not any other one over 100 years. We're not commenting further."
The Free Beacon's attempts to pinpoint the exact date of the donation were unsuccessful as the Times refused to offer any additional comment — that is, until BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray started asking questions.
In a statement to Gray Monday evening, Murphy said, "The Neediest Cases Fund received a $100,000 check from the Clinton Family Foundation on July 24, 2008 [after Clinton's first run for the White House had ended]. It was a replacement check for one dated June 22, 2007, that was apparently sent to an incorrect address and never received."
The check from the Clinton group was cut a mere five months after the former first lady had launched her presidential campaign. Also notable is the fact that the $100,000 donation marks the only time that the Clinton-affiliated group has given money to the charity administered by the Times. Not a penny before or a penny after July 24, 2008.
ABC News did the exact same thing to the Free Beacon in May when the it held off on answering a reporter's questions about George Stephanopoulos' donations to the Clinton foundation. ABC didn't respond to the Free Beacon's inquiries until after it had a chance to give comment to Dylan Byers.
For the Gray Lady, ignoring the Free Beacon is something of a habit..
The Free Beacon's coverage of questionable donations made to the newspaper's charity comes just days after it suggested in a separate report that the Times may have collaborated with a liberal Super PAC to find dirt on Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
On Friday, the Times reported that Rubio has been issued four traffic citations since 1993. His wife, Jeanette, had been issued 13 traffic citations.
The "scoop," which was immediately mocked by actors on both sides of the aisle, was packaged by the Times so that it appeared that all 17 citations belonged to the Florida senator.
As reporters and commentators alike enjoyed a laugh at the Times' expense, with many pointing out that it took two reporters and a researcher to put together the newspaper's groundbreaking report, the Free Beacon's Brent Scher noticed something.
A review of Miami-Dade county court public records shows that the only group to access documents regarding Rubio's driving records was American Bridge, a left-wing Super PAC founded by Clinton-ally David Brock.
"The New York Times Friday report … was written after the citations were pulled by liberal opposition research firm American Bridge, according to Miami-Dade County court records," Scher reported, suggesting that the super PAC's fingerprints were all over the newspaper's Rubio "scoop."
The Free Beacon reached out to the Times for comment. Total silence.
Oddly enough, however, the Times went to Dylan Byers with an explanation. Hours after Scher's report had already been published, the Times maintained in a statement to Politico that no "outside source" played a role in its Rubio report.
The Times initially wouldn't say how it got its hands on Rubio's records. It answered this question only after its statement to Byers had failed to put the story to rest. The Times said it used a document retrieval service, Westlaw Court Express, to get Rubio's records. However, public records still don't reflect that any company by that name had accessed Rubio's records.
The problem for the Times goes beyond questions over whether it actually used an outside source to retrieve Rubio's record. For the Times, its practice of ignoring the Free Beacon while also shopping its responses to specific media groups has given some the impression that it's more a political machine than it is a journal of record.
"Media organizations that feed rival Reporter B answers to questions from unfriendly Reporter A are acting like political campaigns. Unseemly," said CNN's Jake Tapper. "None of us think it's ethical when campaigns do that — cut it out. Unacceptable."
The Times did not respond to the Examiner's requests for comment.