NYT Hits Rita Braver's Conflict of Interest - But Not With Hillary

Media reporter Jacques Steinberg let CBS reporter Rita Braver get away with an untrue statement: that she has "stayed away" from Clinton interviews after her husband's legal work for the Clintons in the White House.

New York Times media reporter Jacques Steinberg picked up criticism of CBS reporter Rita Braver's Sunday Morning interview on October 7 with vice presidential wife Lynne Cheney and her continuous conflict of interest with super-lawyer husband Bob Barnett in Thursday's newspaper. But Steinberg allowed Braver to suggest something untrue: that she has "stayed away" from Clinton interviews after her husband's legal work for the Clintons in the White House years:

"From September 1993 to August 1997, for example, Ms. Braver covered the Clinton White House; Mr. Barnett recused himself from any legal work related to the Clintons. Since then, Ms. Braver said yesterday, she had 'sort of stayed away from the Clintons' in her coverage."

In fact, Rita Braver interviewed Hillary Clinton on November 30, 2003, a few months after her Barnett-negotiated memoir hit the bookstores. Here's where the Steinberg story gets interesting:

"Yesterday, after questions about the propriety of Ms. Braver's assignment were raised on several media Web sites, including that of CBS News, the division's senior vice president for standards, Linda Mason, defended it.

"'Rita is the best person to do this interview,' Ms. Mason said, noting that Ms. Braver is a national correspondent for the program who is based in Washington. Ms. Mason added that Rand Morrison, the 'Sunday Morning' executive producer, had told her of the piece and the plans for Ms. Braver's disclosure in advance of it running. 'I said it was fine.'

"But some journalists have suggested CBS News would have been better served by assigning someone whose spouse had no financial ties to Ms. Cheney to do the profile, which included an extended tour of the vice president's home. ('We were the first television crew ever invited into their personal living quarters,' Ms. Braver told viewers.)"

It wouldn't be hard to find Braver's Hillary interview in Nexis and confirm it.

-Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center