A New York Times journalist at the center of questions about media ethics and how information leaked from intelligence services reached new heights Monday after a report from the paper shows the reporter had dated more than one member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Ali Watkins, currently with The times, faced scrutiny after a Department of Justice investigation revealed that she was having a romantic relationship with Senate Security staffer James Wolfe, a man around 30 years her senior, while she was working at other outlets like BuzzFeed news and Politico.
But Watkins did not limit her romantic entanglements to just one source.
As The Times reported Sunday, Watkins “briefly dated another staff member of the committee.”
While Watkins disclosed her relationship to editors in the past, her reporting on intelligence issues never received a disclaimer about any supposed conflict of interests.
The Daily Caller News Foundation confirmed on June 8 that BuzzFeed News, Watkins’ earlier employer, knew about her relationship with Wolfe but the outlet chose to never disclose this fact at the bottom of any of her reporting.
BuzzFeed took the position that it is not even clear if any of the information she potentially got from Wolfe ever made its way into her reporting.
Still, documents of obtained by the DOJ shows Wolfe discussing how he went out of his way to help Watkins’ career.
“I’ve watched your career take off even before you ever had a career in journalism … I always tried to give you as much Information [sic] that I could and to do the right thing with it so you could get that scoop before anyone else … I always enjoyed the way that you would pursue a story, like nobody else was doing in my hal1way (sic). I felt like I was part of your excitement and was always very supportive of your career and the tenacity that you exhibited to chase down a good story,” one message from Wolfe Shows.
Since the original news broke, after Wolfe was indicted by federal investigators for lying to officials during an investigation into federal leakers, little has been heard of Watkins.
Watkins has also remained conspicuously absent since the news of her relationship with Wolfe broke. The last byline Watkins has appeared on June 3, 2018.
The Times has previously said the paper is currently reviewing past work by Watkins to make sure there was no conflict of interest, but did not say when that review would conclude.
Yet sources within The Times told TheDCNF that many within the paper believe she has already been terminated. While others said she may currently be in a review process — but do not expect her to stay at the paper much longer. (EXCLUSIVE: BuzzFeed Confirms It Knew About Ali Watkins’ Relationship With Indicted Senate Official).
A Times spokeswoman, when asked about these murmurings within the office, pushed back against TheDCNF and said that Watkins “is on vacation” and denied any formal review process or threats to her employment at The Times.
Still, at over three weeks and going, Watkins is surely enjoying an extended reprieve from work. With more news breaking that her affairs did not end with Wolfe, the The Gray Lady will soon have to grapple with whether Watkins is too much of a liability at this point to keep her aboard.
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