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PoliZette

Brett Kavanaugh’s Return to Coaching Did Not Qualify as a ‘Public Safety’ Story

A Washington Post edit decision is met with outrage — until the publication made it a 'local' piece

The Washington Post angered and upset conservatives when it made the questionable editorial decision on Tuesday to place a story about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s return to coaching his daughter’s basketball team in its “public safety” section.

Although many Democratic senators and liberals activists were immediately opposed to President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Kavanaugh’s confirmation process descended into absolute chaos following the last-minute sexual assault allegations leveled against him — all of which he vehemently denied.

Christine Blasey Ford was the first woman to come forward publicly on September 16, alleging that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a high school gathering 36 years before in Maryland, when they were both high school teens.

Two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, also came forward with sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

The FBI investigated the claims, but found no corroboration for any of them.

Kavanaugh denied the allegations unequivocally and Trump stood by his nominee. Only one GOP senator — Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — refused to vote for Kavanaugh as the rest of the Republican senators ultimately unified around him.

Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate 50-48 on October 6.

The newest Supreme Court justice recently returned to coaching his daughter’s basketball team. The Washington Post published an article by Ann Marimow called, “Brett Kavanaugh worried that scandal would end his coaching days. Now the Supreme Court justice is back on the basketball court.”

For some reason, The Post initially chose to place this piece in its “public safety” section — as if Kavanaugh’s return as the girls’ basketball team coach in the aftermath of the allegations was an issue of public safety.

Conservatives and some media members reacted with outrage.

“Even without the ‘public safety’ nonsense, the story is an obvious, partisan dig at Kavanaugh’s credentials and image several weeks following his contentious hearings and ultimate confirmation,” Nicole Russell, a contributor to The Washington Examiner, wrote Wednesday.

“The publication’s editors or reporters may not believe him to be qualified. They may look at his life with disbelief that he ‘moved on.’ But to call him a criminal, even in an obscure tag online, is an offense to the Supreme Court and the process which he and Christine Blasey Ford endured for him to get there,” Russell added.

Jeffrey McCall, a DePauw University professor and media critic, told Fox News that the original “public safety” designation “rhetorically signals that Kavanaugh is somehow a threat to the players on the team he coaches.”

“If this was, indeed, a default placement, then The Washington Post surely needs to devise new approaches for that process. Given the high profile of Justice Kavanaugh and the bruising confirmation battle earlier this year, The Post shouldn’t be allowing any Kavanaugh story to be placed routinely in a default category,” McCall added.

Ashe Schow, a senior editor at The Daily Wire, tweeted, “The gutter journalism that still surrounds reports about Brett Kavanaugh make me want to tear my hair out.”

Media Research Center (MRC) Vice President Dan Gainor told Fox News, “The Post’s crusade against Kavanaugh continues.”

Related: Media’s Kavanaugh Coverage Was Biased, 45 Percent of Americans Say

“They treated a good man and father coaching basketball as a ‘public safety’ issue,” Gainor said. “Even though they changed it to ‘local’ news, they only did so because of the outcry. Post Editor Marty Baron has undermined the legitimacy of everything his paper does by making every section — sports, style and even crime — anti-Trump.”

The Post ultimately removed the “public safety” tag on Wednesday, telling Law & Crime in a statement that the categorization was an automated process.

“Legal affairs stories written by that author automatically default to the public safety category,” The Post said. “Obviously, this one shouldn’t have been there and once we caught the error we corrected it.”

Wesley Lowery, a national reporter with The Post, explained on Twitter that “more often than not, those section tags are a reflection of what team or editor handled a story (and who gets credit for corresponding traffic), as opposed to a subjective sorting decision.”

“In this case, for example, nearly every story under that byline is tagged ‘public safety.'”

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].