Patterico's Pontifications


New York Times Corrects Doctored Quote — But Where Did It Come From??

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:40 am

Is the New York Times deliberately doctoring quotes to benefit the left? (Again, that is.)

The paper’s corrections section contains this correction:

An article yesterday about state and city investigations of a loan made by a Bronx social service agency to the liberal radio network Air America quoted incorrectly from comments made on the air by Al Franken, the host of an Air America program. Referring to Evan M. Cohen, a former official of the network whom Mr. Franken accused of having engineered the loan, from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club, Mr. Franken said: “I don’t know why they did it, and I don’t know where the money went. I don’t know if it was used for operations, which I imagine it was. I think he was robbing Peter to pay Paul.” (He did not say: “I don’t know why he did it. I don’t know where the money went. I don’t know if it was used for operations. I think he was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.”)

Note the differences. The word “robbing” was changed by the paper to “borrowing,” and Franken’s agreement with the idea that the money was used for operations (“which I imagine it was”) was removed entirely. These changes reinforced the impression that only those crazy right-wing bloggers had suggested that the money might have been stolen to pay for the network’s operations. As the article said:

Nonetheless, word of the investigations ignited a firestorm of criticism on the Internet, especially among conservative-leaning blogs that have essentially accused the network of robbing from the poor to pay its bills.

In fact, Franken himself admitted that he believed that had occurred — but that fact was edited out of existence through the doctored Franken quote.

So how did this happen? Here’s where it gets interesting.

The original article attributed the inaccurate quote to a “transcript of the broadcast made by the Department of Investigation.” This led me to believe that the Times‘s mistake had simply resulted from a lazy reliance on a sloppy transcript. But a spokeswoman for the Department has told Michelle Malkin that no such transcript exists:

According to Emily Gest, a spokeswoman for the New York City Dept. of Investigation, the “transcript” of Al Franken’s remarks cited by the New York Times in this article apparently does not exist. “There is no official transcript,” Gest informed me. “You should expect to see a correction in the Times.”

This evidence supports the suspicions of my readers DWilkers and Doc Rampage that the quote was doctored by the New York Times.

Where did the quote come from? Is there an “unofficial” transcript that the spokeswoman forgot to tell Malkin about? Or did the reporter listen to the tape himself? If the latter, then we have a real scandal here, because anybody who listens to the audio can clearly hear that the Times quote is flatly wrong.

I don’t think this issue should die with this correction. I want to know how this “mistake” happened. I don’t know that the paper is deliberately trying to mislead its readers. But in light of the spokeswoman’s statement, the New York Times owes its readers an explanation of why the quote was incorrect in ways that benefit the leftist view of this scandal.

Michelle Malkin has the e-mail addresses of people you should write about this:

Anyone who still cares can write a letter of complaint to reporter Alan Feuer (, spokeswoman Catherine Mathis (, spokesman Toby Usnik (, and ombudsman Byron Calame (

You bet I still care. I have written the reporter and the ombudsman to inquire where this quote came from. So should you.

22 Responses to “New York Times Corrects Doctored Quote — But Where Did It Come From??”

  1. Air America Radio Scandel: New York Times Corrects Al Franken Quote

    Flap previously reported that the New York Times got their quotes of Air America Radio host Al Franken wrong.
    Now, the New York Times has issued a correction.
    An article yesterday about state and city investigations of a loan made by a Bronx socia…

    FullosseousFlap's Dental Blog (baa0b4)

  2. They’re just a buncha damn liars Patterico. I swear when I see something weird in my local paper the first thing I do is check the byline, and if its the NYTimes I assume its a lie until someone else verifies it.

    Quoting out of context? That’s one thing. Misleading headlines? That’s another. If you want outright jaw-dropping mendacity though the NYTimes is the place to go.

    Look at the corporate culture they’ve developed over there. If Dowd and Krugman can get away with it why shouldn’t everybody else?

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  3. Sometimes I wonder if these guys know ahead of time that a story they are writing will need a correction later. It seems like there was nothing more important to these bozos than getting the “borrowing” angle out there.

    Shredstar (e73f56)

  4. Let’s deconstruct this a bit.

    The truth is that what the NYTimes reporter did didn’t change the actual facts all that much. They just kinda smooooothed things out around the edges. Why do it at all?

    The reason they did it is an outright, flatly dishonest, inherent bias in favor of Libs no matter what. Anything they can do, they’ll do it. Clean up a quote? Sure, no problem. Strike a line? Absolutely. Change the context? Sure, no problem, just let me know.

    I submit to you they do this every single day, in almost every article they write.

    You think Al Frankin is upset that the NYTimes cleaned his quote up a bit to make it more palatable to their readers? I doubt it. I’d guess he’s grateful – put it this way, I doubt they were worried Frankin would be yelling at them for misquoting him.

    What is the BIG LIE here? The big lie is that this was from a NY DOI transcript. Notice the correction doesn’t address that? According to the NY DOI there is no such animal. So if anyone wants to ask the NYTimes what the heck was going on here, the first thing to ask is what the heck they were doing attributing this to the NY DOI when that was an absolute – total – fabrication.

    Why did they tell that lie? Because they hoped that lie would put some distance between themselves and what they were doing, because they assumed the NY DOI would probably have “no comment” even if anyone asked about it.

    In other words, they hoped by attributing it to the DOI nobody would notice what they were doing.

    And what they were doing was so lame it wasn’t even worth lying about. But that’s how liars are, they lie when the truth would serve a better purpose because they just don’t know any other way.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  5. I am getting a mental picture of the NY Times as a lefty pretzel, and it isn’t pretty.

    It’s obvious what happened, the Err Enron network needed seed capital, couldn’t get it from investors and as the blogs say, the network robbed from the poor to pay its startup bills.

    Now that the startup money is gone, the network is failing, the payback of the pilferred money isn’t going to happen.

    No matter how the NY Times wordsmiths it, that’s about the size of it. Let’s see if Sherlock Spitzer can figure it out.

    bill (26027c)

  6. Is there any major newspaper known for diligently seeking to be truthful and even-handed? If there is, we should make it the official newspaper of the blogosphere and promote it. If there isn’t, why isn’t there?

    Not to be a broken record, but is there no better/tougher way to hold media outlets accountable??

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  7. While we are talking about shortcomings in journalism…

    I remember soon after 9/11 things in the press about “walls” to block “unauthorized” trading of intelligence between US agencies. I hear now that there were only a “few pages” on this in the 9/11 Report.

    I remember a lot of fuss about a Richard Clark (?) who was a National Security person who said (among other things) that Condi Rice didn’t know who Al Queda was.

    And there was a bunch of stuff from a Mr. Neill (?), I believe, a cabinet member who quit/was fired (??) who claimed President Bush was “always planning on going to war with Iraq”.

    Not to mention a fuss over a daily briefing that was supposed to be some kind of warning of imminent danger that was ignored (it wasn’t, and it wasn’t).


    Thank you, I’ll get on with other things now.

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  8. The NYT only reported the Air America story AFTER CJRDaily called them to task for ignoring it…

    And CJRDaily only reported the story after I tipped off the managing editor, Steve Lovelady, to the dearth of coverage in MSM news outlets.

    It is hard to believe that a guy who claims to have managed 11 Pulitzer Prize winning efforts, who works in New York, who runs a self-described “journalistic watchdog” operation for the outfit that doles out Pulitzer Prizes, and who maintains a so-called “Blog Report” on his website, went two weeks without noticing the Air America scandal erupting in his own backyard and all over the blogosphere… But this improbable ignorance is exactly what Mr. Lovelady actually had the nerve to claim in response to my email.

    I think CJR, being the self-proclaimed “watchdog” of “professional” journalism, needs to get to the bottom of this bout of “creative transcription” at the Gray Lady. Goodness knows the Times won’t do it. The paper doesn’t have the least shred of ethics anymore.

    As an aside, one thing that really surprises me is that Drudge hasn’t printed a single peep about it… I emailed him several times, without any reply.

    What gives, there?

    Anyone have any idea why Drudge is quiet?

    Michael (310404)

  9. I tend to think that this interesting, but a bit of a distraction. The real story isn’t that the New York Times doesn’t want to participate in the destruction of a liberal talk radio network, but that Air America has to rob (or borrow) from charitable organizations to continue to operate.

    Air America was deliberately created by an investment to counter conservative talk radio. And if you go to their website, you’ll see that they boast, right on their banner, of having 69 stations.

    Well, whoop de do! After that investment, after infusions of cash from dedicated liberals, they have managed to exceed 10% of the number of stations that carry Rush Limbaugh!

    Their website doesn’t mention anything, anything at all, about the current scandal. It does have a story about its great ratings increases: “300 percent increase in P12+ Share Spring 2004-Spring 2005 (0.2 to 0.8),” is an example. Trouble is, if your ratings are an 0.8 share, you’re about ready to be format-changed out of existence!

    Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck all managed to start small and grow into huge successes. Without robbing from the poor, Air America would have failed by now, and may still do so anyway.

    Dana R. Pico (a9eb8b)

  10. It is possible to create entertaining shows based on the liberal agenda – and I hope Air America succeeds in doing that. People need more material to listen to when stuck on underbuilt clogged freeways! The network’s problem now is that Al Franken is just not talented as a radio show host – he has no clue what people are thinking. His show is b-o-r-i-n-g, and it seems like he thinks it’s funny that he is so annoying.

    Shredstar (e73f56)

  11. If I wanted to listen to a liberal perspective I would do what I’ve always done, listen to NPR. They have talk radio (“Talk of the Nation”, “Radio Times”, for two that I know of).

    From what I’ve heard about Mr. Franken, he seems a bit caustic at times and maybe people don’t really appreciate that degree of “in-your-face-ness”.

    Besides, if someone listened to Air America and heard the same perspective on NPR and the major networks, what would one conclude??

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  12. Just a bit more on Air America and it’s failure to generate an audience. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are all on WPHT-AM (1210), a 50,000 watt blowtorch in the Philadelphia market. Air America, on the other hand, is on WHAT-AM (1340), a low-power talk radio station with a heavily black orientation. The signal is just gibberish (no, that’s not a comment on Al Franken’s commentary) in the suburbs; people in Hatboro or Warminster or Doylestown couldn’t listen even if they so desired.

    Dana R. Pico (a9eb8b)

  13. Dana,

    “WHAT” radio station did you say he was on….

    I don’t think I would have the guts to do that, unless the station used it as a tongue-in-cheek promo device.

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  14. “The truth is that what the NYTimes reporter did didn’t change the actual facts all that much. They just kinda smooooothed things out around the edges.”

    If the NYT had stopped with just neutering Franken’s quote, I could agree. But of course the real purpose of that alteration was to make it possible for them to pretend that only conservatives actually see this as “robbery”:

    “Nonetheless, word of the investigations ignited a firestorm of criticism on the Internet, especially among conservative-leaning blogs that have essentially accused the network of robbing from the poor to pay its bills.”

    A bit like the crocodile tears scene in “Broadcast News”, the NYT edits out the inconvenient facts in its “reports”.

    Scott (57c0cc)

  15. The Times and Air America

    Any of these changes alone might be excused as a mistake, but when there are three mistakes and all of them work to Air America’s advantage, that’s a trend.

    Finally, as Dwilkers points out in the comments, the Times has still not corrected one “m…

    Doc Rampage (59ce3a)

  16. MD in Philly:

    Yeah, it really is WHAT-AM, at 1340 on the dial. At first I thought it might have been for Hatboro or Hatfield, but the station is in the city. I’ve seen their (pathetic) website once before, but can’t find it now.

    Dana R. Pico (a9eb8b)

  17. From what I’ve heard about Mr. Franken, he seems a bit caustic at times and maybe people don’t really appreciate that degree of “in-your-face-ness”.

    Ummm, Michael Savage? Bill O’Rielly?

    Nick B (464291)

  18. To Nick B.,

    Neither Mr. Savage or Mr. O’Reilly are people I listen to, generally. If I listen to O’Reilly I usually get agitated at him. If I listen to Savage it is usually for curiosity-as he at times has some catchy phrases in between his ranting. (Seriously, I think he needs a little help).
    Unless, of course, they have a guest on worth listening to.

    Favorites, FWIW, Prager, Bennett, Hewitt. Hugh can rant some too, but not mean spirited, and he does put on liberals that I can’t stand…

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  19. Bill Borders, a senior editor at the New Tork Times, has just responded to my email inquiry by saying thay the Times refuses to identify the source of the transcript it used in the Air America story.

    This is pathetic.

    Michael (97fdfb)

  20. What the hell? They identified it in the story.

    It was false. If some confidential source fed them a phony-baloney transcript, that’s news — isn’t it?

    Patterico (242e62)

  21. Just a hypothesis-

    1) Liberal rags have lost credibility for fabricating or altering quotes, which has contributed to the decline in their subscriber bases. Owners and stockholders demand that this stop.

    2) Option 1: rags can clean up their act by quoting responsibly and in context. Problem: doing so makes it much harder to generate “interesting” stories at the volume required for daily publication, generally requires a higher caliber of employee than is available at such institutions and would cease to be of help to the DNC.

    3) Option 2: rags can attribute their quotes to “anonymous” sources, couch them in language like “some feel…”, “many think…”, etc. and when called to answer for them, claim that their sources are “protected” and cannot be divulged. End of story – fence sitting subscribers at least are swayed back into the fold, regaining enough business to make owners happy, and continuing to shill for the DNC.

    Scott (57c0cc)

  22. As a new listener to Philadelphia’s 1210 radio station, Shawn Hannity’s obsession about Baraka Obama is quite revealing. He seems to fear the Presidential Candidate because Obama is a newcomer to the political scene. His comments are not neutral and often states that he plans to use the radio to destroy Barack Obama’s chances to become President of the United States. This saddens me and shows signs of prejudice since he never makes character judgements about Hillary Clinton and John McClain. Are those candidates unblemished or are they more of his kind?

    Paulette (c36902)

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