It’s becoming clear that all of the smiles and bouquets of flowers at the Chuck Hagel Under the Bus ceremony was pretty much a farce from the word go. But as the examination of the details continues, it seems that the media was not just playing along with the act, but tailoring the window dressing as they went along. Our colleague Erick Erickson makes an interesting discovery over at Redstate, showing how the Gray Lady quickly reeled in their original story about Hagel’s ouster and issued a more palatable version without even noting that the editing had gone on.

But that’s not the most remarkable thing about Chuck Hagel’s firing. The most remarkable thing is toward the end of the New York Times story. Look at how the story explains his firing.

First, there is this:

In his two years in the job, Mr. Hagel’s national security views closely followed Mr. Obama’s, which made his dismissal more noteworthy. Mr. Hagel largely carried out Mr. Obama’s orders on matters like bringing back American troops from Afghanistan and trimming the Pentagon budget, without the pushback that characterized the tenure of Mr. Gates.

Then, there is this:

In the past few months he has been overshadowed by General Dempsey, who officials said had won the confidence of Mr. Obama with his recommendation of military action against the Islamic State.

Then there is nothing. Or at least, if you check right now, that is how the story abruptly ends.

But that is not how the story ended originally. Originally, the New York Times story ended this way:

He raised the ire of the White House in August as the administration was ramping up its strategy to fight the Islamic State, directly contradicting the president, who months before had likened the Sunni militant group to a junior varsity basketball squad. Mr. Hagel, facing reporters in his now-familiar role next to General Dempsey, called the Islamic State an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” White House officials later said they viewed those comments as unhelpful, although the administration still appears to be struggling to define just how large is the threat posed by the Islamic State.

You can still run the same test that Erick did to verify this story. A Google search on some of the text from the final, deleted paragraph still turns up a link to the Times story, even though it doesn’t show up in the article anymore.

As Erickson notes, the original version of the Times story called out the fact that Hagel had been a faithful servant in carrying out the orders of the Commander in Chief. But because of his tedious habit of answering questions truthfully within earshot of the press, he had angered the President and his staff. That, however, didn’t fit with the theme of the party that Barack Obama was holding the other day, and that portion of the Times story mysteriously vanished.

I believe it was Brad DeLong who once upon a time said, “why, oh why can’t we have a better press corps?”