03/03/2015 05:40 pm ET Updated Mar 03, 2015

Media Matters Asks Times' Public Editor For Correction On Clinton Emails Story


Liberal watchdog Media Matters has sent a letter asking New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan for a “prominent correction as soon as possible” on a story about Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email during her tenure as Secretary of State.

The Times’ story, which says Clinton “may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record,” has come under fire for failing to specify which laws or regulations Clinton may have violated.

After the article was published, several journalists and outlets, including Media Matters, argued that the relevant Federal Records Law provisions outlining how private email should be handled were only finalized in 2014 — well after Clinton left office.

Citing the author of the Times piece, however, Politico’s Dylan Byers contends that the relevant National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) rules date from 2009 and require "agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.”

Media Matters Chairman David Brock* writes:

While the Times did report that former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a private email account, rather than a government-sponsored email address, you reported that he did so "before the current regulations went into effect."

This ambiguous reporting left your readers in the dark as to how the current regulations differ and, critically, when they went into effect. Readers are left ignorant of the fact that it was 18 months after Clinton left the state Department that the Federal Records Act was amended to account for the retention of private emails used for government service.

The Times' public editor published a piece this afternoon addressing concerns about the headline of the Clinton piece but did not directly clarify which laws or regulations the newspaper was suggesting the former Secretary of State violated.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified Media Matters President Bradley Beychok as the author of the letter.