NY Times: Yeah, Glenn Thrush was bad, but he wasn't "bad bad"

The short version of the story is that Glenn Thrush won’t be losing his job at the Gray Lady.

You may recall back in November when Thrush was the latest, high-profile journalist to be accused of sexual harassment by no less than four of his former colleagues from his days at Politico. The stories included allegations of unwanted “kissing and touching” as well as one co-worker who was “left in tears” after fighting off his advances. The New York Times immediately suspended him without pay while they investigated the allegations.

So how would they handle this? John Sexton picked up what seems to have been a bit of foreshadowing a week later, when Bari Weiss penned an editorial piece warning about the limits of Believe All Women. She was dancing on a hot tin roof throughout the piece, but still managed to warn against the dangers of allowing major media outlets to fall into the same trap that Rolling Stone did with their “Jackie” story. But as I’ll get to in a moment, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

As the Daily Beast reported yesterday, the investigation is concluded and Mr. Thrush will be coming back to work at the Times, but not covering the White House beat as he previously did.

The New York Times on Wednesday concluded that one of its star White House reporters, Glenn Thrush, suspended last month amid an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, “behaved in ways that we do not condone.” However, executive editor Dean Baquet noted, Thrush will not be fired. “While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired,” Baquet said.

So they’ve made their decision, but there’s obviously something big missing from this coverage. How did the Times arrive at this decision? Others have been accused of impropriety on the same level, sometimes by an even smaller number of women, and found themselves packing up their offices and heading out the door. (Mark Halperin, anyone?) What did they discover which made this a situation where it was acceptable to have Thrush’s byline continue appearing under their masthead?

The New York Times put out their own, considerably more lengthy explanation yesterday. But for all of the paragraphs they expend on the history of the case, details of who investigated it and the specifics of their final decision, there really isn’t a hint of an explanation here.

This is where we come back to the Rolling Stone analogy I mentioned above. In that case, people were blatantly, falsely accused and there was no rape or other assault. In Thrush’s case, the Times seems to have found reason to believe that the allegations were true, saying that Thrush, “behaved in ways that we do not condone.” They followed that up with, “Glenn has acted offensively,” before qualifying the conclusion by saying that he doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Clearly, being removed from the arguably highest- profile post of covering the President in such a tumultuous year is regarded as a punishment, perhaps indicating that he can’t be considered fit to carry such a load. But by keeping him on and assigning him other duties, apparently there are news stories worthy of inclusion on the pages of the Gray Lady which don’t require quite so much moral authority when speaking to their readers.

The point here is that the Times is taking this discussion in an entirely new direction. Previously we were concerned over the possibility that people with no access to due process might be the victims of at least greatly exaggerated claims if not outright fabrications. But that’s clearly not the case with Thrush. The Times apparently believes his accusers but don’t find his actions deplorable enough to cut him loose. This is once again a bit reminiscent of Whoopi Goldberg defending Roman Polanski by saying, “it wasn’t rape rape.” Either you found Thrush guilty of sexual harassment and you Believe The Women or you don’t. I fail to see how this solves the Gray Lady’s Thrush problem at all.