NYTimes executive editor Bill Keller lied to readers about the paper’s anonymous leak-dependent NSA terrorist surveillance story published in December 2005. First, the relevant passage from NYTimes’ public editor Byron Calame’s Sunday column:
THE NEW YORK TIMES’S Dec. 16 article that disclosed the Bush administration’s warrantless eavesdropping has led to an important public debate about the once-secret program. And the decision to write about the program in the face of White House pressure deserved even more praise than I gave it in a January column, which focused on the paper’s inadequate explanation of why it had “delayed publication for a year.”
The article, written by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, has been honored with a Pulitzer and other journalistic prizes. But contradictory post-publication comments by Times editors and others about just how long the article was held have left me increasingly concerned about one key question: Did The Times mislead readers by stating that any delay in publication came after the Nov. 2, 2004, presidential election?
In my January column, in which I refused to rely on anonymous sources, I noted that I was left “puzzled” by the election question. But I have now learned from Bill Keller, the executive editor, that The Times delayed publication of drafts of the eavesdropping article before the 2004 election. This revelation confirms what anonymous sources had told other publications such as The Los Angeles Times and The New York Observer in December.
Ed Morrissey sums it up for you:
Left-wing pundits and bloggers have insisted that Keller spiked the story to keep George Bush in office. Keller, however, has a different take on his decision. He insists that the news would have likely helped Bush rather than hurt him, and the public support for this program after its delayed revelation last December supports that analysis. John Kerry and the Democrats had castigated Bush for the lack of visible effort to find and track terrorists, and the program’s exposure would have forced Kerry to recant and suddenly argue that Bush had been too enthusiastic about fighting terrorism, a tough pirouette to execute in a grueling presidential campaign.
In the end, the final version of the story got prepared just days before the election, and Keller argues that a release at that point would have been “unfair” to all parties. It took several weeks for all of the political dust to settle once the article did come out. He may have a point, but then two related events took place: he delayed the release for over a year, and then Keller lied about the timing when he published it.
Calame asked Keller why he lied, although Calame didn’t quite put it that way. Keller says he used “inelegant” wording in his description, but clearly Keller wanted to keep that information secret. Besides, Keller’s job as editor depends on his use of words and the judgement of what and how to communicate. It’s clear that Keller wanted to keep people from learning that he had the chance to publish this before the election, and he deliberately did not. Why lie? He depends on the Left for his readership, and his reluctance to publish the article when Bush was vulnerable will likely lose his readership.
Keller has destroyed what’s left of his paper’s credibility.
Not hard to do, considering there was only a thimble’s worth left, anyway.
Thomas Lifson has more.
The newspaper of wreckage is taking the wrecking ball to its own offices. I repeat the lessons of the Times’ blabbermouthing:
Lesson No. 1: Never trust the Times’ headlines.
Lesson No. 2: Never trust what’s printed under the Times’ headlines.
Lesson No. 3: Never trust what comes out of the mouths of the Times’ editors and reporters.
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