Times Public Editor Will Stay Mum on Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd (photo: Getty)

Maureen Dowd (photo: Getty)

Don’t expect Margaret Sullivan, The New York Times‘ public editor, to join those calling for columnist Maureen Dowd to be axed over what they charge is a serial pattern of inaccuracy.

The Observer reached out to Ms. Sullivan to find out if she planned to weigh in on Ms. Dowd’s latest controversy: significantly misquoting a mayoral candidate’s wife so a policy-laden argument had the aura of a political cheap shot.

“Given that The Times ran a substantial correction and Ms. Dowd has apologized, I don’t have any immediate plans to comment,” she wrote back.

The publication indeed corrected the erroneous quote, which had collected various words said by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, on whether mayoral rival Christine Quinn could relate to women. Ms. Dowd quoted Ms. McCray saying Ms. Quinn, who is gay, was “not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children.” In fact, Ms. McCray had presented various policy arguments.

Ms. Dowd later apologized and attributed the error to a “noisy coffee shop” (never mind that the de Blasio campaign managed to produce a relatively clear recording), but that has done little to tamp down widespread criticism for the error.

Many have pointed out that this is not the first time that Ms. Dowd has misquoted a source and some have questioned whether a Times writer with less name recognition would have gotten fired for the mistake.

The public editor, whose job is to act as a reader’s representative, usually weighs in on criticism of Times writers. For instance, she chastised former Times Magazine writer Andrew Goldman after he got in a Twitter fight with novelist Jennifer Weiner and once took then-blogger Nate Silver to task for betting on the presidential election over Twitter.

But it seems that The Times is done talking about the Dowd matter for now.