New York Times Reporter Demoted After Past Lover Indicted By Federal Investigators

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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Joe Simonson Media Reporter
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The New York Times has reassigned the reporter who once had a romantic relationship with a Senate staffer recently indicted for making false statements to the FBI during a leaking investigation.

Ali Watkins will be demoted and placed into the paper’s New York bureau and covering a new beat, according to The Times.

The news comes after Watkins’ email and phone records were seized by federal investigators during an investigation of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence aide James Wolfe, an individual who Watkins had a long-running romantic affair with.

The Daily Caller News Foundation inquired into Watkins’ whereabouts two weeks ago, after noticing her byline had gone cold in the wake of the news. After asking whether Watkins had been placed on leave for an internal investigation, a Times spokeswoman told TheDCNF that Watkins was simply “on vacation” and any rumors of an investigation was “not true.”

Yet The Times admits that Watkins, 26, had “been the subject of an internal review.” A statement from the paper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, makes no reference to any vacation time taken by Watkins.

“We hold our journalists and their work to the highest standards,” Baquet wrote in a memo to newsroom staff. “We are giving Ali an opportunity to show that she can live up to them. I believe she can.” He added: “I also believe that The Times must be a humane place that can allow for second chances when there are mitigating circumstances.”

Watkins released a statement Tuesday acknowledging mistakes but stood by her reporting, writing: “I respect and understand the Times’ review and agree that I should have handled aspects of my past relationships and disclosures differently. I sincerely regret putting The Times in a difficult position and am very grateful for the support I’ve received from my editors and colleagues here. I also appreciate the review’s conclusion that my reporting has been fact-based and accurate.”

Going forward, the paper will “tighten our job candidate screening process to ensure that significant questions make their way to the newsroom leadership for full discussion — which did not happen in this case,” Baquet wrote. (RELATED: BuzzFeed Confirms It Knew About Ali Watkins’ Relationship With Indicted Senate Official)

As TheDCNF reported in June, her previous employer BuzzFeed News failed to disclose to readers that Watkins had a relationship with a potential source — despite Watkins disclosing this information to her editors.

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