So, Is Martin Tolchin, Who Penned Sexual Assault Apologist Letter to NYT, Politico's Co-Founder? The Site Responds

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Posted: May 06, 2020 1:45 PM
So, Is Martin Tolchin, Who Penned Sexual Assault Apologist Letter to NYT, Politico's Co-Founder? The Site Responds

Source: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

[See UPDATE from Politico's communication team below. The headline has been tweaked to reflect the changes]

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Tim Alberta is not a happy camper. The Politico reporter took to Twitter to defend his employer by declaring that Martin Tolchin is not a co-founder of the site. I mean, I guess I would be a little embarrassed after what Tolchin wrote in a letter to the editor for The New York Times; Tolchin also worked for that publication as well.

In all, Tolchin doesn’t care about the sexual assault allegations lobbed against former Vice President Joe Biden because he wants to boot Trump this year. He wants to see a Biden coronation. He was responding to a piece from the Times’ editorial board who said that Biden’s accuser, Tara Reade, should have her claims investigated. Reade claims that in 1993, then-Sen. Biden penetrated her with his fingers. Reade was a Senate aide at the time:

I totally disagree with this editorial. I don’t want an investigation. I want a coronation of Joe Biden. Would he make a great president? Unlikely. Would he make a good president? Good enough. Would he make a better president than the present occupant? Absolutely. I don’t want justice, whatever that may be. I want a win, the removal of Donald Trump from office, and Mr. Biden is our best chance.

Suppose an investigation reveals damaging information concerning his relationship with Tara Reade or something else, and Mr. Biden loses the nomination to Senator Bernie Sanders or someone else with a minimal chance of defeating Mr. Trump. Should we really risk the possibility?

Martin Tolchin

Alexandria, Va.

The writer is a former member of The Times’s Washington bureau and a founder of Politico.

That last part is what prompted Alberta’s response.

“Love to see the Daily Callers, Federalists, and Benny Johnsons of the world seize upon Tolchin's asinine commentary to make a point about journalistic ethics.... without so much as making a call to confirm that he is, in fact, the "founder" of Politico. (He is not.),” he tweeted. Well, at least he labeled the commentary asinine, though Tolchin did vocally say what most Democrats are thinking about this episode. He later said, “my beef is with the NYT for not vetting the guy. And with the guy himself for giving us a bad name,” Alberta said calling out Tolchin. “My beef is also with bad-faith actors on the right who somehow think they're combatting media bias by trafficking in deceptive headlines and faulty information. I'm not angry. Just amused by lectures on journalism ethics from non-journalists with no ethics.”

On Politico’s staff page for Tolchin, it reads, “Marty Tolchin has flunked retirement yet again. Tolchin capped a 40-year career with The New York Times by founding The Hill, a newspaper that reports on Congress. Three years after retiring from The Hill, he is helping launch Politico.” 

Alberta noted that “helping launch” isn’t the same as a founder. Okay, we’ll avoid the linguistic gymnastics here because Politico even called Tolchin a “founder” in one of their Playbook entries. Here’s the one that’s been cited dating back to May of 2016. It was about the death of Tolchin’s wife, Susan [emphasis mine]:

REMEMBERING SUSAN TOLCHIN – WashPost’s Adam Bernstein: “Susan Tolchin, a political scientist who frequently collaborated with her journalist husband on books exploring political patronage, women in politics and the raging discontent of voters — volumes that combined scholarly rigor and an accessible style, died May 18 at her home in Washington. She was 75. The cause was ovarian cancer, said her husband, Martin Tolchin, a veteran Washington correspondent for the New York Times who later was publisher of the Hill newspaper, which covers Congress and political campaigns, and a founder of the political news website Politico.”

And as with the Playbook, the link went to The Washington Post's obituary [emphasis mine]:

Susan Tolchin, a political scientist who frequently collaborated with her journalist husband on books exploring political patronage, women in politics and the raging discontent of voters — volumes that combined scholarly rigor and an accessible style, died May 18 at her home in Washington. She was 75.

The cause was ovarian cancer, said her husband, Martin Tolchin, a veteran Washington correspondent for the New York Times who later was publisher of the Hill newspaper, which covers Congress and political campaigns, and a founder of the political news website Politico.

So, who lied first, then? It wasn’t us evil, disgusting figures of conservative media. We’re just going on what’s been said about this guy since 2016. It looks like Marty is a co-founder of Politico [See UPDATE below]. And there was no need given that…Politico had no qualms about linking to The Washington Post’s site for this obituary where it clearly states “Marty” was a founder. Yet, this pretty much distracts us from the real atrocity here: Tolchin couldn’t care less if Biden is a sexual predator so long as it means the end of the Trump administration. He is 91 years old. Maybe the rants of a cantankerous old man? No. He’s a 40-year New York Times veteran who just let the whole country know what Democrats think about women who accuse their side of sexual assault. They don’t care.

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Editor's Note: Politico's communications director Melissa Cooke reached out to Townhall to clarify Tolchin's involvement with the site's founding. In an email, she said, " Mr. Tolchin was a consultant who was instrumental in founding the Capitol Leader (the working name of the publication before launch). Jim Vandehei and John Harris were hired before the publication launched, and it was renamed POLITICO after they took over from Mr. Tolchin." Here's a timeline Politico provided to clear things up:

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September, 2006: Capitol Leader is announced. NYT reports: “So far, The Capitol Leader has no editor and no staff. But Martin Tolchin, who founded The Hill newspaper in 1994 and left in 2003, has been working as its senior editor and senior publisher and an informal recruiter. (He said he would leave once the paper is on its feet.) Mr. Tolchin, 78, said the staff would eventually grow to 40, including reporters, editors, columnists and, it is hoped, an editorial cartoonist.” 

November 20, 2006: John and Jim are hired to create a new “unnamed venture” that will combine “Robert Allbritton's new Capitol Hill newspaper, The Capitol Leader, which Harris and VandeHei will lead and the Washington media resources of Allbritton's ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV, and its 24-hour cable news service, NewsChannel 8, along with national exposure on the CBS Television Network.” Tolchin is quoted and identified as the senior publisher of the Capitol Leader.

November 28, 2006: After it becomes clear to Marty that Jim and John will lead the new publication with Robert, he announces that he is phasing out his consultancy. Fishbowl DC reports: “Now, does this specifically saying he’s leaving? No. But Tolchin only signed on for about a year anyway (and Harris will become editor-in-chief and VandeHei will become executive managing editor) and sources within Capitol Leader’s Rosslyn building tell us that, yes, he’s basically easing himself out.”

December 12, 2006 – very clear who is running the newly named POLITICO.

Marty was still on the roster throughout December.

2017: Marty is still under contract. But he was not in management and was, in essence, papered over/pushed aside at POLITICO by the time it launched in late January.

Politico also sent this article from AdWeek, which said, “Tolchin wasn’t always happy about being eclipsed by VandeHarris when Capitol Leader turned into Politico and the relationship was polite at best.” It also described Tolchin’s “small role” at Politico

This is expected folks. What Tolchin said was terrible regarding the sexual assault allegations Tara Reade has lobbed at Biden. Remember even Alberta said his commentary was “asinine,” but then why did Politico not reach out to The Washington Post who still says that Tolchin was “a founder of the political news website Politicoin their obituary about his late wife, Susan. And as we noted above, this article was linked in a 2016 Politico Playbook post with that line in the description before linking to WaPo. This is damage control, but if there was a mistake—it’s not on us or The New York Times who originally noted Tolchin’s connections to the site in his letter to the publication.  

We'll keep you updated if they get back to us as to why The Washington Post was not corrected four years ago?