NYT Scrubs Details From Article About An Obama Off-The-Record Meeting

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The New York Times removed significant portions of an article it published on Thursday in which President Obama reportedly made the admission that he failed to recognize Americans’ anxiety level following the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

As often happens with news articles that are published online before being published in print, The Times removed some passages, added others and rearranged copy in the piece, which was entitled “Under Fire From G.O.P., Obama Defends Response To Terror Attacks.”

When unimportant information is involved, outlets rarely acknowledge the changes. And indeed, a spokeswoman for The Times tells The Daily Caller that the article was merely “trimmed” because of space requirements. But the two passages scrubbed from The Times article, written by Peter Baker and Gardiner Harris, appear to have contained significant information about Obama’s public response to the terror massacres. Obama’s reported statements also lend credence to Republican criticism that his response to the terrorist massacres was lacking.

In one of the pre-scrubbed versions of the article, Obama was said to have told a group of about 10 reporters during a two-hour off-the-record meeting held on Tuesday that he did not fully grasp how much anxiety Americans felt following the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino because he didn’t watch enough cable TV.

“In his meeting with the columnists, Mr. Obama indicated that he did not see enough cable television to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and made clear that he plans to step up his public arguments,” that iteration of The Times article reads, according to NewsDiffs.com, a website that tracks changes made to news articles.

In an even earlier version of the piece, The Times reported that “Mr. Obama said he now realizes that he was slow to respond to public fears after terrorist attacks in Paris and California, acknowledging that his low-key approach led Americans to worry that he was not doing enough to keep the country safe.”

“He has engaged in a blitz of public events lately to try to convince them otherwise, including a visit on Thursday to the National Counterterrorism Center.”

Obama was reportedly frustrated with how the GOP has criticized his overall response to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, which left 130 and 14 dead, respectively. The off-the-record session appears to have been held, in part, to inform the reporters that he has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to fight the terrorist scourge.

A spokeswoman for The Times told TheDC of the article alterations that “there’s nothing unusual here.”

“That paragraph, near the bottom of the story, was trimmed for space in the print paper by a copy editor in New York late last night. But it was in our story on the web all day and read by many thousands of readers. Web stories without length constraints are routinely edited for print,” said Elisabeth Bumiller, The Times’ Washington bureau chief.

But that still leaves questions about why The Times did not find Obama’s admissions to be newsworthy. Besides reporters and columnists from The Times, a Washington Post columnist attended the off-the-record, as did reporters with the liberal Mic.com and Vox.com.

Ironically, the now-scrubbed passages won Times’ Baker kudos from Erik Wemple, The Washington Post’s media reporter. Wemple praised the reporter for bucking the White House’s off-the-record status request for the meeting.

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