During the 2018 Supreme Court confirmation battle over Brett Kavanaugh, a major mainstream media outlet reportedly made a shocking decision.
According to The New York Times, in the midst of the confirmation process, The Washington Post decided against running an “explosive” article about Kavanaugh written by veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward.
Woodward is best known for breaking the Watergate scandal and for famously protecting the identity of his main source, known as “Deep Throat,” for a span of 30 years — until William Mark Felt, former deputy director of the FBI, confirmed in 2005 that he was indeed the journalist’s source.
Most readers will remember the highly-charged atmosphere surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court. To say it was contentious is an understatement, largely due to sexual assault allegations made against the then-nominee by a woman named Christine Blasey Ford.
According to the Post, Ford claimed that Kavanaugh had forced himself on her at a party several decades ago when both were still in school. However, there was never any corroboration of Ford’s story, Kavanaugh vigorously defended himself, he was confirmed, and now he is helping decide cases as a justice on the Supreme Court.
However, it turns out that Woodward could have at least made Kavanaugh’s life a little more miserable during the confirmation process were it not for the Post‘s and Woodward’s reluctance to move forward.
As Kavanaugh was defending himself against the accusations of Ford, Woodward was reportedly preparing to publish an article that would have outed Kavanaugh as one of Woodward’s anonymous sources for Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate, a book the journalist had published back in 1999.
According to the Washington Examiner, the article “would have revealed that Kavanaugh gave an account about Ken Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton for Woodward’s book. Kavanaugh, who was a lawyer on Starr’s team, then publicly contradicted what he told Woodward in a letter to the Washington Post in 1999.”
The Times report asserts that Post employees who read Woodward’s article said it would have been “explosive.” But the article never ran.
The journalist’s code
It would be nice to think that the decision to kill the piece was made out of respect for the Supreme Court confirmation process, but that does not appear to be the case. Rather, Post executive editor Martin Baron implored Woodward not to renege on the promise he made to Kavanaugh to safeguard his identity as a source.
The New York Times reports:
Mr. Baron’s opposition to Mr. Woodward’s story, people who work with him said, wasn’t about favoring Mr. Kavanaugh, or being afraid of a fight. Publishing the article would simply violate the traditional principle that sources should be protected. And it would veer into an uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing new form of journalism, and, in Mr. Baron’s view, imperil the reputation of the institution.
Who knows how things would have ended up for Kavanaugh if someone other than Baron had been running the Post two years ago?