There is a bizarre story out of the New York Times where the newspaper printed an astonishing statement by President Obama that was immediately picked up by journalists and then removed by the newspapers under a claim that it was trimmed for space. The newspaper said that President Obama defended his criticized laid-back response to the Paris and San Bernardino massacred to not watching enough cable television. It was the most newsworthy part of the fairly generic article and yet it quickly disappeared as social media lit up with criticism of the President.
The President was responding to criticism that he seemed passive or disconnected in his early response to the massacres. Reporting on a private meeting with columnists, Obama was reportedly as recognizing the failure and added “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 rationalization was immediately picked up by media, including a leading CNN reporter, as astonishing.
It then disappeared without a trace.
At first, I thought that the New York Times might have simply gotten it wrong or it was decided that the President was just joking in such a bizarre comment. However, the New York Times is not denying the statement was made or suggesting that it was a joke. Instead, D.C. bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller wrote “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.” That last part is certainly true, but that is well known. What does not track is cutting a graph that, while embarrassing to the White House, was the only real news in the piece. That is reflected in the fact that social media lit up immediately from journalists who cited only that part of the story.
Reporters flashed the information on social media while some like Ron Fournier of the National Journal columnist called it “breathtaking.”Likewise, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto compared the lack of response by some as a telling contrast to such a statement being made by a less favored politician like George W. Bush. CNN’s Brian Stelter declared it the “Quote of the Day” and immediately put it on his Twitter feed.
In fairness to the New York Times, it has hit Obama pretty hard on some stories. However, this removal of such a newsworthy element of the story is itself quite disturbing. A president should not need to watch cable to understand how to respond to massacres of this kind.