Did White House pressure NYT into changing Dover story?
posted at 10:12 am on October 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Originally, the New York Times reported on President Barack Obama’s visit to Dover AFB and the arrival of fallen serviceman by explaining that the White House wanted Obama to be seen as concerned and aware of the sacrifices made in America’s war policies:
A small contingent of reporters and photographers accompanied Mr. Obama to Dover, where he arrived at 12:34 a.m. aboard Marine One. He returned to the South Lawn of the White House at 4:45 a.m.
The images and the sentiment of the president’s five-hour trip to Delaware were intended by the White House to convey to the nation that Mr. Obama was not making his Afghanistan decision lightly or in haste.
Following that link now, the second paragraph quoted is nowhere to be seen. The Jeff Zeleny report contains no editorial announcement of changes after its publication, and no indication of any retraction. Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette and Nice Deb both noticed the change, however, and Greyhawk also noticed that the NYT didn’t quite redact that paragraph from everywhere on its servers. The story now reads like this:
The trip was a symbolic one for Mr. Obama, given the gravity of his coming announcement of a new strategy for Afghanistan.
The image of the commander in chief standing on a darkened tarmac, offering a salute to one of the soldiers, highlighted the poignancy of a decision he is facing.
But even after the redaction, this came up in a search on the NYT site:
So who changed the story, and why? The original Zeleny report with that paragraph gave credence to the accusation that Obama made the Dover trip for a photo op, picked up by bloggers to criticize the White House. Its mysterious disappearance post-publication indicates that someone was unhappy with that kind of criticism and removed the paragraph to curtail it — and didn’t do a very good job of it, either.
The editors of the NYT could have removed it on their own without prompting from anyone, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense. The editors approved the piece for publication in the first place, and besides, the NYT isn’t exactly adept at quickly responding to blogospheric criticism, at least not on its news pages (their blogs are a different matter). It would appear that someone other than bloggers brought this to the attention of the Times and pressed for the removal of the offending paragraph. That might also explain why the Times changed the article without acknowledging it, a big red flag in itself.
The NYT should answer for why this change was made, and why they attempted to fly it under the radar. If the paragraph was inaccurate, a retraction should have accompanied it. If it wasn’t inaccurate, then who pressed them to remove it?