Columnist Maureen Dowd wasn’t alone in her now-disputed reporting on Vice President Biden’s considerations regarding a 2016 presidential run, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told the Erik Wemple Blog today. “I know that the vice president is now saying this wasn’t true, but if you look at coverage, every news organization in America had sources close to him describing this,” said Baquet.
“This” is the scene that Dowd described in an Aug. 1 column discussing the considerations weighing on Biden as supporters urged him to wage a campaign for the Democratic nomination. A serious factor was Biden’s son Beau, who before dying of cancer in May allegedly urged the vice president to throw in. “‘Dad, I know you don’t give a damn about money,’ Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in,” wrote Dowd in the column. “Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”
In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired last night, Biden took issue with how that story got told — either by Dowd or the plenty of others who later abridged it: “Beau all along thought that I should run and I could win. But there was not what was sort of made out as kind of this Hollywood-esque thing that at the last minute Beau grabbed my hand and said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to run, like, win one for the Gipper.’ It wasn’t anything like that.”
Though the Erik Wemple Blog cannot certify Baquet’s assertion that “every news organization in America” confirmed Dowd’s reporting, similar reports did crop up elsewhere. Weeks before Dowd disclosed this moment deep into her Aug. 1 column, the Wall Street Journal’s Colleen McCain Nelson and Peter Nicholas broke the story: “Before his death last month, elder son Beau Biden encouraged his father to get into the race, people familiar with the matter said,” wrote the Journal reporters. Co-Managing Editor of Bloomberg Politics John Heilemann, who’d profiled Biden in 2012, endorsed the story line in early August and said in a subsequent MSNBC appearance, “He always wanted his father to run for president again, that meant a lot to Joe Biden back then, it meant a lot to him in that death bed moment which is true and did happen.”
Then there’s Politico. Edward-Isaac Dovere reported in early October that Biden himself had told the story to Dowd. “Exclusive: Biden himself leaked word of his son’s dying wish,” read the headline, itself an implicit confirmation of Dowd’s reporting. Or near-confirmation — Dovere wrote that the vice president wasn’t the most consistent storyteller: “Before that moment and since, Biden has told the Beau story to others. Sometimes details change — the setting, the exact words.”
Had Dowd included the fact that Beau Biden had long championed for his father’s presidential ambitions, perhaps she wouldn’t now be at the center of this hubbub. “It’s hard to imagine some version of this is not true,” says Baquet. (Though Dowd is part of the Times’ opinion/editorial operation, Baquet’s news division did cite the column in a story on Biden)