When I first saw the quote, I thought for sure he must have meant that it’s ridiculous that saving the Times now ranks with saving Darfur as a lefty pet cause. Surely he couldn’t be so callous, so solipsistic, so astoundingly egotistical as to equate the fate of his rag with genocide as a matter of pressing import.

Annnnnd … I was right.

New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, in an email to POLITICO, explained telling an audience at Stanford yesterday that “saving the New York Times now ranks with saving Darfur as a high-minded cause.”

“I think it’s pretty obviously a reflection of my mild astonishment at the earnest fervor with which some people have suddenly embraced the cause of saving newspapers,” Keller wrote. “That’s matched only by my mild astonishment at the silly literal-mindedness with which some people read my occasional public comments.”

Just wanted to help set the record straight before the misinterpretation spreads too far. For a more justifiable shot of NYT loathing, see Media Blog’s post on Keller blaming Fox News for the outrage over his appalling hit piece on McCain and Vicki Iseman — even though all the cable nets, including MSNBC, were dumping on the story from the get-go. A new smear to spin the old one. Stay classy, Bill.

Update: Ah, forgot to link another of Keller’s newer greatest hits: Is there a way out of the recession through Nazi economics?