15:13, June 29 271 0 theguardian.com

2020-06-29 15:13:03
Bob Woodward story on Kavanaugh's veracity 'pulled' during Senate hearings

Brett Kavanaugh lied about not being a source for the Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, but the Washington Post quashed the story while the supreme court justice’s confirmation hearings were ongoing, according to the New York Times.

Media writer Ben Smith reported the story in a wide-ranging piece on the Post under the leadership of the executive editor, Marty Baron, published late on Sunday.

Kavanaugh hit the headlines again on Monday as he and three other conservatives voted in favor of a hardline Louisiana abortion law which the court nonetheless struck down by a narrow 5-4 majority as Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal judges.

Kavanaugh was Donald Trump’s second nomination to the court, tipping it firmly to the right.

According to Smith, during Kavanaugh’s tempestuous confirmation hearings in late 2018, the Post was set to run a story in which Woodward outed Kavanaugh as a source for material in one of his books about Ken Starr and his investigation of Bill Clinton.

Kavanaugh worked for Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Clinton’s affair with a staffer, Monica Lewinsky. In a letter to the Post in 1999, Kavanaugh had publicly denied being the source in question.

According to Smith, “two Post journalists who read” Woodward’s piece about the affair said it “would have been explosive”, given questions about Kavanaugh’s integrity that dominated confirmation hearings.

Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 Senate vote, amid huge controversy over allegations from multiple women of sexual assault when he was a student. He strenuously denied all such claims.

“The article was nearly ready,” Smith wrote, citing three unnamed Post employees, “when the executive editor stepped in. Baron urged Woodward not to breach his arrangement with Kavanaugh and to protect his old source’s anonymity.”

Smith added: “Baron and other editors persuaded Woodward that it would be bad for the Post and ‘bad for Bob’ to disclose a source [and] the piece never ran.”

Baron did not comment but Smith, citing “people who work with him”, also reported that the editor’s opposition to the story “wasn’t about favoring Kavanaugh, or being afraid of a fight”.

“Publishing the article,” Smith wrote, “would simply violate the traditional principle that sources should be protected [and] would veer into an uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing new form of journalism and, in Baron’s view, imperil the reputation” of the Post.

With Carl Bernstein, Woodward broke the story of the Watergate scandal, leading to the resignation of Richard Nixon in August 1974. The two reporters famously protected the identity of their main source, known as “Deep Throat”, and only revealed it to have been Mark Felt after the senior FBI official died in 2008.

Woodward is set to publish a second book on Donald Trump. The sequel to Fear, a 2018 bestseller, will include interviews with the president.