Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP/Getty Images)
Media critic

The headline on a hotly shared New York Times story now reads: “State Department Spent $52,701 on Curtains for Nikki Haley’s Residence.”

Sounds like a lot of money for curtains, right?

Indeed. But that headline is a far less clicky version than the one it replaced, which stoked a great deal of outrage online. It read, “Nikki Haley’s View of New York Is Priceless. Her Curtains? $52,701.” Based on that presentation, someone might just conclude that Haley herself charged taxpayers big money for the curtains on her government-provided digs in New York. She is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a Trump administration appointee.

Lo and behold, people did reach that very conclusion:

Except, the details: “A spokesman for Ms. Haley said plans to buy the curtains were made in 2016, during the Obama administration. Ms. Haley had no say in the purchase, he said.” The pricey window treatments are part of a luxurious spread on First Avenue that was listed at $58,000 per month — a 6,000-square-foot space designed to host functions for U.N. dignitaries. Haley is the first U.N. ambassador to occupy the place after the U.S. government decided to bail on former quarters in the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

That particular point — that the curtain decision fell in the Obama years — was bumped up higher in the piece in an edit, according to the site NewsDiffs.

Backlash to the initial New York Times presentation has been robust, as well it should be. There are plenty of examples of bona fide Trump-era abuses of taxpayer money — see Scott Pruitt’s strange security purchases and Tom Price’s travel expenses. No need to fashion a headline suggesting that Haley belongs to that group.

How did the New York Times cover the U.N. ambassador’s residence during the Obama presidency. Sweetly: “Pint-Size Diplomacy at Play in U.N. Ambassador’s Penthouse.”

The Erik Wemple Blog has asked the New York Times for comment on the piece.

Update: The New York Times has affixed this note to the piece:

An earlier version of this article and headline created an unfair impression about who was responsible for the purchase in question. While Nikki R. Haley is the current ambassador to the United Nations, the decision on leasing the ambassador’s residence and purchasing the curtains was made during the Obama administration, according to current and former officials. The article should not have focused on Ms. Haley, nor should a picture of her have been used. The article and headline have now been edited to reflect those concerns, and the picture has been removed.

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