NYT reports gov’t paid more than $50,000 for Nikki Haley’s curtains — but there’s more to the story

NYT reports gov’t paid more than $50,000 for Nikki Haley’s curtains — but there’s more to the story
A New York Times report notes that the State Department paid over $50,000 for Nikki Haley's apartment curtains. But there's a catch. (Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

Update — 9/14/18, 3:13 pm:

The New York Times issued a statement clarifying their stance on the article.

The statement read:

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.

Original article is below. 

The New York Times ran a report on Thursday that the U.S. State Department paid over $50,000 for United States Ambassador to the United Nations’ Nikki Haley’s apartment curtains.

The Times seemingly buried one glaring fact, however: it was the Obama administration who approved the exorbitant spending, and not the Trump administration, and it was also done during a time of deep budget cuts within the State Department.

Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, has drawn much criticism due to the news, as you can imagine.

What are the details?

The report noted that $52,701 was spent in 2017 for the purchase of customized and mechanized curtains for the windows in Haley’s New York City residence.

The report was also keen to point out that Haley’s residence costs $58,000 a month in rent.

While the newspaper outlet made a large to-do about the amount spent on the curtains in 2017, it didn’t mention that the Trump administration had absolutely nothing to do with the large purchase until at least the sixth paragraph of the article — way below the fold.

A very brief paragraph issued the disclaimer, “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 statement — which read just over three lines long — is buried much farther down the page than what some might consider necessary.

The report added, “The curtains themselves cost $29,900, while the motors and hardware needed to open and close them automatically cost $22,801, according to the contracts. Installation took place from March to August of last year, during Ms. Haley’s tenure as ambassador.”

This is how the article looked prior to massive outcry against the article. The statement from Haley’s spokesperson was featured in the sixth paragraph:

(Image source: Google screenshot)

And notably, this is how it looked just hours after publication. The statement from Haley’s spokesperson has clearly been moved from the fourth to the sixth paragraph, in a more highly visible area:

(Image source: Google screenshot)

It seems apparent that the outlet manipulated the flow of the article to look more forthright and honest, however, the publication has yet to reveal or announce that they updated their post to reflect such information, even for the sake of clarity.

What else?

Ben Bruen, a former White House official for the Obama administration, voiced his outrage to the Times.

“How can you, on the one hand, tell diplomats that basic needs cannot be met and, on the other hand, spend more than $50,000 on a customized curtain system for the ambassador to the U.N.?” Bruen asked.

On Friday, CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted about the misleading article, writing, “[A] source at the US Mission to the UN tells CNN: ‘It was decided, well before the election in 2016, that the US Ambassador’s residence would move from the Waldorf to its new location. The new location was unfurnished/unfinished.”

“The source continues: ‘In June of 2016 it was decided that the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations would outfit the new residence (this is standard operating procedure for Ambassadors’ residences across the globe),” Tapper added. “In July of 2016 the first site visit was complete and the designer from OBO chose and ordered the curtains shortly thereafter (summer 2016). Also SOP OBO does not personalize residences to individual Ambassador’s tastes.”

He added, “So this was done under @BarackObama and @SamanthaJPower? ‘This isn’t about blaming Obama/Power,’ the source says. ‘It’s SOP for outfitting Ambassadors’ Residences. The outfitting of the USUN residence just happened to start in 2016.”

“Bottom line, per source,” Tapper concluded. “‘Amb. Haley had no choice in the location of the residence or what curtains were picked out that summer.'”

Yashar Ali, a Huffington Post reporter, added, “Misleading headline. Few are reading past the first couple grafs. And now most of Twitter thinks @nikkihaley is like Pruitt or Price when she’s not. How irresponsible. Read the whole story. Also the rent is less expensive than previous admins.”