On Tuesday, the New York Times announced that Ali Watkins, one of the paper’s star reporters, is being relocated after accusations that she was romantically involved with at least two possible sources emerged. The allegations surfaced after an internal review discovered a three-year relationship with a Senate Intelligence Committee aide and a second relationship with another committee staffer.
Last month, an indictment showed that Watkins, 26, had maintained a relationship with James A. Wolfe, a Senate Intelligence Committee aide who is 30 years her senior and had had access to classified information from the FBI and CIA since “before Watkins was born,” for three years.
Wolfe has been accused by federal prosecutors of lying about leaking sensitive information to journalists, and the indictment suggests that he acted as a source for Watkins and other reporters.
Watkins denies that she leveraged the relationship for information, according to a report by Fox News.
A report by the Gray Lady also targeted Watson, who was one of the organization’s employees, revealing that she also dated another Senate Intelligence Committee staff member. The revelation implies that Watkins obtained fame as a journalist after using her boyfriend, who was married, as a source.
The Times reported on the discovery in an article released on Tuesday.
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the paper, stated in a memo, “We hold our journalists and their work to the highest standards.”
He continued, “We are giving Ali an opportunity to show that she can live up to them. I believe she can.”
Watkins is being relocated to New York and will be assigned a mentor.
Baquet stated that the paper “must be a humane place that can allow for second chances when there are mitigating circumstances.”
While Watkins was not terminated, Baquet did note his displeasure with her actions.
“We are troubled by Ali’s conduct, particularly while she was employed by other news organizations. For a reporter to have an intimate relationship with someone he or she covers is unacceptable,” wrote Baquet.
“Although her disclosures varied in detail, none of her editors barred her from covering the intelligence committee, or explicitly told her that the relationship was inappropriate,” said Michael M. Grynbaum, a media correspondent for the paper. “She has said the relationship did not turn romantic until after those stories ran.”
“As she started her career, I believe she was not well served by some editors elsewhere who failed to respond appropriately to her disclosures about her relationships,” Baquet stated. He added that the Times editors “also bear some responsibility.”
Watkins released a statement, saying, “I respect and understand the Times’ review and agree that I should have handled aspects of my past relationships and disclosures differently. I sincerely regret putting The Times in a difficult position and am very grateful for the support I’ve received from my editors and colleagues here. I also appreciate the review’s conclusion that my reporting has been fact-based and accurate.”