WaPo erases unflattering anecdote about Harris from 18-month-old story

Eric Boehm of Reason has done all the work here so I’m going to force you to read his post to get the full story. The short version: This passage, which opened a long Washington Post profile of Kamala Harris in July 2019, has simply disappeared from the archived version on the paper’s website. How come?

“I actually got sleep,” Kamala said, sitting in a Hilton conference room, beside her sister, and smiling as she recalled walks on the beach with her husband and that one morning SoulCycle class she was able to take.

“That kind of stuff,” Kamala said between sips of iced tea, “which was about bringing a little normal to the days, that was a treat for me.”

“I mean, in some ways it was a treat,” Maya said. “But not really.”

“It’s a treat that a prisoner gets when they ask for, ‘A morsel of food please,’ ” Kamala said shoving her hands forward as if clutching a metal plate, her voice now trembling like an old British man locked in a Dickensian jail cell. “‘And water! I just want wahtahhh….’Your standards really go out the f—ing window.”

Kamala burst into laughter.

You can see that passage in the version of the WaPo story reprinted at the time in this newspaper. The new version on WaPo’s site, dated January 11, 2021, has been rewritten to open with anodyne background material on Harris’s sister Maya. Boehm notes that the updated story features a new byline that includes a WaPo writer who’s written several fluffy pieces about Harris lately.

One of her big liabilities with the left during the 2020 primary was her record on criminal justice as attorney general of California. Mocking starving prisoners, however jokingly, is a reminder of that liability. And now it’s gone from the WaPo archives. Fancy that.

Amazingly, WaPo’s spokesman admitted to Boehm that the piece had been “repurposed and updated” but noted that the original piece remained available in print. Okay, but … why isn’t it still available in the Post’s archives? They could have kept the original story under its old URL and then created a separate URL for the updated story. They’re owned by Jeff Bezos. They’re not wanting for server space.

There’s no reasonable conclusion to be drawn except that WaPo deliberately whitewashed the earlier Harris profile because liberals are now invested in her success as vice president. I’d consider it dubious if they merely added material to an old story without deleting anything and didn’t note that fact somewhere, but to redact information surreptitiously without admitting it is insanely unethical. There’s a reason why denoting updates to a post that’s already been published has been standard operating procedure for online commentary for years. The temptation to quietly erase substantive mistakes or truthful information that’s inconvenient to your current view is simply too great. If you’re adding something after the fact — or subtracting something erroneous — you ‘fess up to show good faith.

Evidently the pros do things differently. And needless to say, the fact that the updated story is dated just 11 days ago is highly suspicious. Boehm wasn’t able to pin down the Post on when Harris’s joke about prisoners was removed from the story, but the closer to the inauguration it was, the more suspect it is. If they did it before Biden chose her as VP, it’s still bad but the obvious partisan motive would be lacking. If they did it after Biden chose her as VP but before the election, it reeks of doing Democrats a favor. If they did it after the election, it reeks of doing the *incoming administration* a favor. Worse and worse. If in fact the new story was published just within the past two weeks, inescapably this would seem to be the capital’s most powerful newspaper doing PR for the new vice president, presumably with some sort of reward (increased access?) quietly offered in exchange.

In fact, Boehm asked WaPo’s spokesman if Harris’s own team had requested that the prisoner joke be deleted. No reply.

Ominous exit question: How many other archived Post stories have been quietly bowdlerized to make life easier for Democrats? Does the paper do this periodically as a service to its preferred party? Maybe someone with the time and resources should start scanning in print editions of WaPo to make them available online since it seems the digital edition just can’t be trusted to report inconvenient facts accurately.

Update: Annnnd now the new bowdlerized version of the original piece contains a link to the original piece featuring the prisoner story. Question: Why was a new version of the original story prepared at all? They’re substantially similar. WaPo could have simply posted links to its old Harris coverage this month to satisfy readers curious to know more about the new VP. Was the point of the new version chiefly to jettison that unflattering anecdote?

Update: Mmm, yes, perhaps memory-holding content isn’t wise: