The recently issued L.A. Times ethics code states: “When we make mistakes, we quickly and forthrightly correct the record.” (My emphasis.) Yet the paper has just surreptitiously fixed a substantive error in the Web version of an article — without acknowledging the error that ran in the print version.
Yesterday, I read a front-page L.A. Times story on Chief Justice Rehnquist’s announcement that he is not retiring. The article had the following false assertion (the sentence in bold type), smack-dab on Page A1:
Until July 1, the president and his aides expected that Rehnquist’s would be the seat they would have to fill.
They thought Rehnquist’s illness would force his retirement, and they intended to move quickly to replace the conservative chief justice with a reliably conservative federal appeals court judge. The leading candidates were all white men.
But when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement, the White House was forced to switch gears. The president and his legal advisors broadened their search to consider several women on the federal bench. They also spoke of taking several weeks to make a decision.
Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, 49, vaulted back to the top of the list because his nomination, like O’Connor’s in 1981, would be a breakthrough. President Reagan made history by naming the first woman to the Supreme Court, and Bush would like to do the same by appointing the first Latino.
So, according to The Times, Bush was considering only “white men” when he believed he’d be replacing Rehnquist. Only after O’Connor retired did he give serious consideration to minorities such as Alberto Gonzales.
This is an entirely fictional account, as anyone who has been following the process well knows. Justice O’Connor announced her retirement on July 1. Numerous reports in late June, including reports crediting White House sources, reported that Latino and women candidates were rumored to be on President Bush’s short list.
For example, a June 18 AP article named Emilio Garza as one of six candidates on Bush’s short list. The article also named Edith Jones, Alberto Gonzales, and Miguel Estrada as “plausible picks.” A June 19 Washington Post article and a June 22 Chicago Tribune article both listed Gonzales as among the top contenders, citing anonymous sources close to (or working at) the White House. And, of course, the well-connected Bill Kristol famously predicted on June 22 that O’Connor would be the first retirement, and that Gonzales would be nominated to take her spot.
Thus, available evidence suggests that the L.A. Times‘s front-page claim that “[t]he leading candidates were all white men” was incorrect.
Here’s where things get interesting. The paper has issued no correction of this error. However, if you click on the link for yesterday’s front-page story, you’ll see that the “white men” claim has been altered to remove the word “white”:
They thought Rehnquist’s illness would force his retirement, and they intended to move quickly to replace the conservative chief justice with a reliably conservative federal appeals court judge. The leading candidates were all men.
That is not what the print version said. The print version said that the leading candidates were all “white men,” not simply “men.” But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a shot of the relevant portion of yesterday’s front page:
What’s going on here? Why was the word “white” removed from the online version of this article? Did someone realize that the assertion was incorrect, and have the word airbrushed from the Web version? It’s hard to imagine any other explanation.
This hardly seems consistent with the claim made in the recently issued ethics code: “When we make mistakes, we quickly and forthrightly correct the record.” There’s nothing “forthright” about this at all. The word that comes to mind is “sneaky.”
I’m writing the Readers’ Representative about this. I’ll let you know what I hear back.
UPDATE x2: Welcome to Power Line readers, and thanks to John for the link.
UPDATE x3: The Readers’ Representative has partially responded. Details in this post.
An article in today’s L.A. Times about the Ninth Circuit’s overturning of a death sentence (isn’t this “Dog Bites Man”?) says:
The ruling was written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, an appointee of President Carter who is one of the court’s most consistent skeptics about the validity of death sentences.
I’m glad that the paper told its readers about Reinhardt . . . but the picture is actually starker than that. Here’s how I would have put it:
The ruling was written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, an appointee of President Carter who has never voted to uphold a death sentence in his almost twenty-five years as a federal appellate judge.
That would provide readers a little more information about the Rose Bird of the Ninth Circuit, don’t you think?
I have discussed on this blog many times the issue of a newspaper printing a letter to the editor containing an incorrect factual assertion. (See this post for an example and links to others.) Here is the latest example from yesterday’s L.A. Times:
So the official Republican line is that Rove outed Plame “to discourage a reporter from writing a story that was false.” But the story, that there was no evidence of Saddam Hussein trying to purchase weapons-grade uranium, was true, so that line has no credibility.
Rove was clearly trying to punish Wilson for giving the truth about this administration’s lies, to punish him by putting his wife and her co-workers in danger.
This is no witch hunt by the Democrats; it’s a hunt by the administration, and the game is anyone who tells truths that is damaging to it.
As my bold emphasis indicates, the letter asserts that there was “no evidence” of Saddam Hussein’s trying to purchase weapons-grade uranium. It doesn’t say “no credible evidence,” which might be considered an opinion, however wrongheaded. Instead, the letter asserts, without qualification, that there was no evidence at all to support the theory that Saddam was trying to buy yellowcake [UPDATE: actually, the letter says “weapons-grade uranium”] from Niger.
This is flatly incorrect. There most certainly was evidence of Saddam’s efforts to buy yellowcake, and that evidence was provided by none other than “Lyin’ Joe” Wilson — the very guy who claimed to have “debunked” the Saddam-Niger connection.
Let’s go to the source — the Senate Intelligence Committee Report:
[Wilson’s] intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999,(REDACTED) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.”
This is indeed evidence that Saddam tried to purchase weapons-grade uranium from Niger. As Captain Ed notes, Niger’s four exports are uranium ore, livestock, cowpeas, and onions. Which of the four do you figure Saddam was interested in?
Why might David James of Long Beach think that there is no evidence of Saddam’s efforts to buy yellowcake from Niger?