A reporter who now works for the New York Times failed to report on public records, which he obtained in April, that cut against Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D., Mass.) claim that she was fired from a teaching position in 1971 due to pregnancy discrimination.
Reid Epstein, who was then working for the Wall Street Journal, filed an open-records request with the Riverdale Board of Education on April 2 seeking “to inspect or obtain” copies of public records relating to Warren’s time teaching at Riverdale during the 1970-1971 school year. In response to his request, Epstein on April 10 received school-board minutes that challenge Warren’s story, according to documents obtained by National Review through the New Jersey Open Records Act.
Epstein, who moved to the Times on April 19, never broke the story. Reached for comment, a Times spokeswoman said that the “records were inconclusive” and the potential story required further sourcing.
Earlier this month, the Washington Free Beacon obtained the aforementioned school-board minutes showing that the Riverdale Board of Education had approved a second-year teaching contract for a young Elizabeth Warren in April 1971. Rather than accepting the board’s offer of continued employment, Warren chose to tender her resignation, which was “accepted with regret,” according to minutes from a school-board meeting held two months after the offer was extended.
One day after the Free Beacon reported on the apparent discrepancy, the Times published an article that listed Epstein as a contributor. The Times’ reporting frames the story around “the discrimination that many pregnant women have faced on the job” and highlights Warren’s statement, which dismissed the evidence gathered by the Beacon as lacking in context.
“I was pregnant, but nobody knew it. And then a couple of months later when I was six months pregnant and it was pretty obvious, the principal called me in, wished me luck, and said he was going to hire someone else for the job,” Warren told CBS News on October 7.
Epstein continued to publish articles at the Journal until May 4, none of which included reporting on the school-board minutes. His final byline was published more than three weeks after he received the relevant documents. He declined to comment when asked why he failed to report the story.
New York Times vice president of communications Danielle Rhoades Ha explained that the paper did not feel comfortable publishing the contents of the school-board minutes given that the documents may not fully explain the circumstances of Warren’s departure.
“As has been reported, the meeting minutes of the Board of Education showed that Warren’s contract was extended for another school year. We sought interviews with contemporaneous sources about that contract and her statements that she was ultimately let go once she was visibly pregnant. Many of those sources, including fellow teachers, the school principal and board members, were dead,” her statement read. “Others said they did not remember. The records were inconclusive about the circumstances under which she left, and we continued reporting. The Times and others have since reported about Warren’s statements about her departure as well as the board minutes.”
Warren has repeatedly described on the campaign trail how she was “shown the door” after one year because her pregnancy became visible and routinely claims that the experience informed her commitment to gender equality and her decision to enter politics.
Questions around Warren’s account first emerged in early October, when a Jacobin magazine journalist resurfaced a 2007 interview at the University of California, Berkeley, in which Warren claimed she left teaching of her own volition in order to care for her child.
“I worked in a public school system with the children with disabilities. I did that for a year . . . I went back to graduate school and took a couple of courses in education and said, ‘I don’t think this is going to work out for me,’” Warren said at the time. “I was pregnant with my first baby, so I had a baby and stayed home for a couple of years.”
Warren’s 2013 memoir, A Fighting Chance, also mentions the incident but casts her departure from the school as the result of sexist discrimination rather than as the personal decision suggested by the school-board minutes.
“By the end of the school year, I was pretty obviously pregnant,” Warren writes. “The principal did what I think a lot of principals did back then—wished me good luck, didn’t ask me back the next school year, and hired someone else for the job.”
The Wall Street Journal communications departments failed to respond to a request for comment by press time.