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NYT Scrubs Obama Panel Adviser's 'War on Coal' Quote From Print Edition Report on Obama's Climate Speech

Tom Blumer's picture

First, they buried the lede, then they excised it completely.

An initial report yesterday at the New York Times on President Obama's speech on "climate change" at Georgetown University by Mark Landler and John M. Broder -- a report which was still up at least as late as 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, according to this story pull posted at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (go to the bottom of the article at the link), quoted "a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change" expressing his desire for a "war on coal" -- in Paragraphs 17 and 18 (HT to Ed Driscoll at PJ Media; bolds are mine):


Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University's Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.

"Everybody is waiting for action," he said. "The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they're having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what's needed."

I don't think a prolife adviser to a Republican or conservative president who might mention, say, a "war on abortion" would see his or her quote held until Paragraph 18 of a 22-paragraph report.

They also wouldn't see the quote completely pulled sometime between the article's original posting and its print edition version (both have identical URLs; Breitbart.com's NYT link containing the quote found above is the same URL as the revised Times story), which actually happened to both excerpted paragraphs above. Mr. Schrag's name and statement got the memory-hole treatment.

Other changes were made to the Times pair's report before it went to print -- again without leaving any tracks. The most significant is probably the difference in how Obama's position on the Keystone Pipeline was framed:

(original, at Paragraphs 7-9)

He briefly addressed the pending decision on whether to allow the construction of a 1,200-mile pipeline from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast. Mr. Obama, who has been under heavy political pressure from opponents and supporters of the $7 billion project, said the pipeline should be built only if it did not have a major effect on the climate.

"And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," Mr. Obama said in a statement that cheered pipeline opponents. "The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."

He did not lay out the criteria for measuring the project's effect on the climate or say how big an impact he was willing to accept. Those decisions are still months away, White House officials said.

(as revised for print edition, Paragraphs 4-5)

Mr. Obama waded more deeply than he has before into the dispute over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry heavy crude oil from Alberta to depots and refineries in the Midwest and on the Gulf Coast. He said he would not approve the 1,700-mile pipeline if it was shown that it would “significantly” worsen climate change.

The president’s comments were ambiguous: He did not specify what aspects of the project he was including or what level of climate impact he considers “significant.” Opponents and backers of the pipeline found support for their positions in his remarks.

It's amazing how a guy can go from "addressing briefly" to "wading more deeply" in a just a few hours in reports about the very same speech, isn't it? Oh, and how did the pipeline get 500 miles longer?

Among other things, the print edition version added seven paragraphs of Keystone-related reaction from a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, a Trans Canada official, and an envirozealot.

To be clear, there certainly was good cause for issuing a revised version of Landler's and Broder's original story. But that doesn't justify excising Schrag's inflammatory quote, which by any normal journalistic definition is newsworthy, from the print version, or pretending that the original report containing his quote never existed.

But George Orwell's Winston Smith and Mr. Smith's "1984" minders would be proud of the memory-hold administrators at the Times.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.