This week, a former New York Times editor revealed that the NYT got handed the Watergate storywell before the Washington Post had it, but they just...forgot about it, or something. Now the full scope of this foolishness is coming out; the comedy of errors continues to this day:
Charles Kaiser went and called up a bunch of NYT people to get their reactions to this madness, and it just gets more and more funny/ sad! The story: an NYT reporter, getting ready to leave the paper in 1972, had lunch with the FBI director, who tipped him off to the entire Watergate conspiracy; the reporter rushed back and gave the whole story to his editor, Robert Phelps; the reporter left the paper; Phelps just, uh, kinda sat on the tip and told nobody. Until now. This is crazy shit:
"I lead the bafflement brigade," Phelps told FCP in a telephone interview. "I have no recollection at all; and that baffles me. It is enough to make you question your sanity, of course"
YEA. The other NYT people who were trying to match the WP's Watergate reporting in 1972 are all like UM HEY YEA WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO MENTION THAT, JESUS. You can almost hear them digging their fingernails into their palms until drops of blood emerge.
The final indignity: the original reporter who got the tip, Robert Smith, finally decides to at least give the NYT the scoop on how they lost the scoop. But that got lost!
Only after he learned that Phelps was going to publish the whole story did Smith decide to write his own version of these events—in an op-ed piece that he submitted to The New York Times. Smith said he submitted the piece without contacting anyone at the paper, and he never received any response to it. Andrew Rosenthal told FCP yesterday that the op-ed page could not find any record of ever having received a piece from Smith. After failing to place it in the Times, Smith offered the piece to the American Journalism Review, which this week posted it on its website.