The New York Times took Sen. Claire McCaskill at her word Thursday morning, and uncritically repeated the Missouri Democrat's false claim that she had never "ever" met with the Russian ambassador in her capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee.
The paper quietly removed this phony charge from one of its stories after it was shown the senator's statement was less-than-accurate. However, the Times article in question, "Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry," has not been updated with an editor's note showing it included, and then removed, false information.
The stealth edit came shortly before Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters Thursday he would recuse himself from an investigation into Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 election. He made the announcement after it was revealed this week that he failed to disclose during his confirmation that he spoke twice last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Hours before Sessions' announcement, McCaskill said the following on social media:
I've been on the Armed Services Com for 10 years.No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of Foreign Rel Com.
The Times wasted no time running with her claim. The paper's article originally included a passage that read, "Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, cast doubt on Mr. Sessions's explanation that he had met with the Russian ambassador because of his duties as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that was beyond the panel's jurisdiction."
The report also included a direct quote of her tweet.
However, National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke soon debunked McCaskill's story. A basic search of the senator's publicly available Twitter account revealed she had, in fact, met with the ambassador.
On Jan. 30, 2013, for example, she wrote, "Off to meeting w/Russian ambassador. Upset about the arbitrary/cruel decision to end all US adoptions, even those in process." Later, on Aug. 6, 2015, McCaskill tweeted, "Today calls with British, Russian, and German Ambassadors re: Iran deal."
These older messages are easily accessible, as even the most basic online search will show. That the Times apparently didn't bother to fact-check the senator is perplexing.
The Times removed the senator's claim from its report around 11 a.m. Thursday morning, according to newsdiff.com.
The senator admitted later that she had met before with Kislyak. However, she added, it was never a "one-on-one." McCaskill also blamed Twitter's character limit for prohibiting her from being more precise.
She said elsewhere in remarks to reporters that, "The Russian ambassador never called me. The Russian ambassador has never asked for a meeting with me … you cannot say that having a one-on-one meeting with the Russian ambassador was a common thing to occur."
The Times did not respond to the Washington Examiner's request for comment.