Longtime TV news anchor Katie Couric on Tuesday acknowledged an error in editing out certain controversial thoughts of then-Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a 2016 interview. “Ultimately I think I should have included it,” said Couric in an extended interview with the “Today” show’s Savannah Guthrie to promote her upcoming book.

Previews of the book have fixated on Couric’s confession that she wanted to “protect” Ginsburg, who died last year at age 87. The edit came about after Couric, then with Yahoo News, asked Ginsburg about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. The justice responded that this form of protest was “dumb and disrespectful,” not to mention “stupid” and “arrogant.”

Those remarks stirred an uproar, causing Ginsburg to bail on them days later. “I should have declined to respond,” said the justice.

Yet the public had no clue about the liberal icon’s even more inflammatory words. The protests, she argued, demonstrated “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life … Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from … as they became older they realize that this was youthful folly. And that’s why education is important.”

In her remarks to Guthrie, Couric commented on that material: “There was another line that I thought was — I wasn’t sure what she meant exactly and I thought it was subject to interpretation,” said Couric. It most certainly was subject to interpretation: Ginsburg appeared to be applying a conservative sentiment about immigration to the actions of NFL players. Couric said she should have followed up or just published the full comment and forced Ginsburg to clarify it later.


Asked about how this decision related to the public’s cratering trust in media, Couric responded, “I think Justice Brandeis said sunshine is the best disinfectant, and I think the more we can be transparent about the decisions we make and the more we can say, ‘Maybe that wasn’t the right one,’ ” we’ll be better off, said Couric. She also said that the jurist’s “most pertinent and direct response” was indeed included in the Yahoo News report.

That, of course, is a matter of opinion. The material that Couric did include was clearly more coherent than the omitted remarks. From an accountability perspective, though, the “contempt” remarks were more pertinent, as they exposed Ginsburg’s ignorance and insensitivity on a front-burner topic in national politics. Publishing them alone would have been more journalistic than the course she chose.

“I think what people don’t realize is, we make editorial decisions like that all the time,” Couric told Guthrie in an attempt to put the episode in context. “And I chose to talk about this and put it in the book for a discussion.”

That’s an important point. Journalists routinely pull punches, sometimes after hearing from PR types who are seeking to influence the end product. In this case, Couric notes that the Supreme Court’s top spokesperson had contacted her to say that Ginsburg had “misspoken” and to request that the remarks be excluded.

So along with all the condemnations piling up on Couric, some credit must be extended for her decision to now lay out the circumstances with such candor and introspection.

Another explanation, of course, is that she still had this huge Ginsburg scoop burning a hole in her notebook — and she wanted credit for it.