This is just fascinating.
That L.A. Times hit piece about Fred Thompson’s alleged lobbying for an abortion rights group had a passage that originally read as follows:
But Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family planning association in 1991, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months.
At one of the meals, she recalled, Thompson re-enacted a cowboy death scene from one of his movies. She also remembered him telling her that Sununu had just given him tickets for a VIP tour of the White House for one of Thompson’s sons and his wife.
Jim Geraghty says that the bolded language describes an event that could not have happened. Garaghty cites to Thompson’s Internet Movie Database entry, which he says shows that Thompson hadn’t made any cowboy movies as of 1991. I don’t know if Geraghty is right about this, but nothing jumps out at me as a movie that would have contained a cowboy death scene. (If you learn something to the contrary, you know where to find me.)
Stranger still, the language I have bolded — language that (if Geraghty is right) undercuts the credibility of the witness telling the story — is now gone from the story.
The language was originally there in the first version printed on the Web. The passage was quoted, among other places, at Hot Air, Obsidian Wings, lefty blog Corrente, and many other places around the Web. And if you plug the missing sentence into Google News, you’ll even pull up links to the L.A. Times story — although when you click through, you’ll see that the sentence is gone.
It appears that the version quoted by bloggers was an early version that was later edited before making it into the print edition. A friend has confirmed for me that the passage was not included in the print edition of the paper — at least in the edition he received. This means that the removal of the passage may not be nefarious — it’s possible that it was simply an editing decision made for innocent reasons, like space issues.
But if it’s true that Thompson had never made a cowboy movie before 1991, then the L.A. Times owes readers a duty to re-examine the story in light of that fact — and to report that the witness was talking about a movie that never existed. Even if the story wasn’t reported in the print edition, it’s information tending to undercut the credibility of a key witness against Thompson. The paper should look into it and report it.
I’ll write the Readers’ Representative and ask if that’s going to happen.
By the way, I complained the other day that the editors had failed to put up the document purporting to be the minutes of a meeting discussing Thompson’s hiring. Well, whether it’s in response to my complaint or not (I assume not), they have finally posted the document. Document experts, the ball’s in your court!
UPDATE: James Joyner says:
I would note, however, that, at the time of the incident in question, Thompson had appeared in a minor role in a movie called “White Sands.” While not technically a Western, it’s certainly reasonable for it to have been construed as such from casual conversation. I haven’t seen it, so I have no clue whether Thompson’s character was shot in it.
We should all keep in mind that it hasn’t been proven that Thompson wasn’t in such a movie. Similarly, hilzoy says in comments:
One of our commenters pointed out that he was in Thunderheart, which was released in April 1992 (so presumably filming in 1991), and could easily be misremembered as a Western. Whether Thompson’s character dies in it, whether this is the right movie, etc., I have no idea.
UPDATE x2: Some commenters are disputing the notion that these movies fit the anecdote told by Ms. Sarno.
UPDATE x3: The L.A. Times has identified the movie in question: “Keep the Change.” Details here. Preliminarily, it sounds plausible that this is the right movie.