Ali Watkins is being transferred from the newspaper’s DC bureau to a new position in New York where she’ll be “closely supervised” under a “senior mentor,” Times executive editor Dean Baquet announced Tuesday.
The move is the result of the paper’s internal investigation into the 26-year-old journalist, who had a three-year affair with James A. Wolfe, the former head of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Wolfe, 57, was charged last month with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters, including Watkins, during the agency’s probe into media leaks. He’s denied leaking information. Watkins’ phone and email records were seized by the Department of Justice.
In an email to staffers, Baquet chided Watkins for making “poor judgments,” saying that “for a reporter to have an intimate relationship with someone he or she covers is unacceptable.”
But he said the young reporter, who has covered federal law enforcement at the Times, deserved a second chance and that her move to the Big Apple would be a “fresh start.”
Baquet also noted that the accuracy of Watkins’ reporting has never been challenged.
“We hold our journalists and their work to the highest standards,” he wrote. “We are giving Ali an opportunity to show that she can live up to them. I believe she can.”
He added: “I also believe that The Times must be a humane place that can allow for second chances when there are mitigating circumstances.”
Watkins apologized for the debacle:
“I respect and understand the Times’ review and agree that I should have handled aspects of my past relationships and disclosures differently,” she said. “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.”Watkins’ relationship with Wolfe ended in 2017 before she joined the Times. She previously worked for McClatchy, BuzzFeed, HuffPost and Politico covering national security, and denied he was ever a source.