David Drumm has already addressed the mistake made by President Barack Obama in his jobs speech to Congress when he called Abraham Lincoln “the founder” of the Republican Party. It is a common mistake, as David points out. However, I am more interested in what appears to be a bit of helpful editing by PBS. The gaffe has mysteriously disappeared like last year’s pledge drive.
Here is what Obama said according to the New York Times:
“We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad — (applause) — launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. (Applause.) And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.”
Here is what PBS reported:
“We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future – a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.”
PBS corrected the transcript after objections (and suspicions) were raised by its posting. Conservatives jumped on the issue and questioned whether federal funding or political sympathies played a role in the edit. Others have noted that organizations like Times magazine were quick to nail Mike Huckabee on the same error — in that case, it was a certain Time Mag employee named Jay Carney.
Putting aside the conspiracy theories, PBS (as a news organization) should explain how this one embarrassing line was edited out of the speech. There may be an innocent explanation (such as using the prepared text which did not include the gaffe), but there should be an explanation for PBS to remain credible.
This is a minor matter in my view, though (if PBS is using the prepared text rather than the actual speech), it is a poor practice for a leading and respected news organization. It is ironic in the case of Obama who relies heavily on a teleprompter and rarely departs from prepared remarks.