Last night MJ Rosenberg posted an excerpt from a New York Times article published yesterday about the White House’s efforts to convince Congress of the wisdom of a strike on Syria. The excerpt said the Israel lobby group AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) was pushing a strike so that the US would also stand up to Iran, and it quoted a White House official calling AIPAC the “800-pound gorilla in the room.”
Here’s the excerpt:
Administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group Aipac was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Mr. Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats’ traditional base among Jews.
One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called Aipac “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, “If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line” against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, “we’re in trouble.”
Blumenthal sent out an email: “I am unable to find it anywhere on the Times’ website. What happened, and why has the New York Times not acknowledged replacing one article with another one in a matter of hours?”
MJ Rosenberg then did a post on the deletion.
This UK site shows 11 revisions of the Times article. Between Version 5 and 6, it lost the 800-pound gorilla and AIPAC’s role in pushing an attack on Syria.
Blumenthal asks, “I have never witnessed anything like this before. Is it standard practice for online New York Times reports to be scrubbed from existence and replaced with revised, updated articles containing different content? And if so, why was the replacement not acknowledged somewhere in the text of the article?”
The Times’s Robert Mackey has defended the deletion. On twitter, he says that many articles morph on the Times website in the internet age. He points readers to the original version of the article, on the Times website. Titled “President Seeks to Rally Support for Syria Strike,” it is bylined Michael Gordon and Jackie Calmes and includes the 800-pound gorilla quote and the direct reference to AIPAC’s push for war.
The article as revised has lost that quote and the description of AIPAC’s role. Now titled, “President Gains McCain’s Backing on Syria Strike,” this article is bylined Calmes, Gordon and Eric Schmitt.
Mackey says that the Times is being transparent. Here’s some of his dialogue with Yousef Munayyer and Ali Gharib
Gharib: this is a not insignificant detail, by the article’s own lights.
Mackey: I am nor debating that point, just explaining fact that most articles now morph on site every day..
Mackey: what confuses people is how site posts drafts of articles that morph from one day’s paper to next
Munayyer: Robert do you see why that edit raises eyebrows?
Mackey: you seem to discount transparency of the news organization now sharing early drafts online
Update: The Times sent the following email to Politico early this afternoon. Not sure it clarifies. From Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha:
We regularly edit web stories for the print paper. This particular change was made to avoid repeating the same thought which ran in a page one story on Monday. That article entitled, “President Seeks to Rally Support for Syria Strike” included the following:
“One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called the American Israel Political Affairs Committee “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, ‘If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line’ — against catastrophic use of chemical weapons — ‘we’re in trouble.’”
Update: Ali Gharib has also reported on the matter, with more of the sequence on the removal of the offending language, and a note that an 800-pound gorilla operates by its own rules.