The New York Times claimed yesterday, two days before the presidential candidates’ foreign policy debate, that the White House had reached an agreement with the Iranian regime to pursue direct talks.
The story could have helped President Barack Obama make the case that he had made more progress with Iran than had previously been indicated. But the White House rushed to deny the story–and early this morning, the Daily Caller reports that the Times had changed it, but without indicating that changes had been made.
The DC‘s Gregg Re writes:
When the New York Times updated its story late Saturday to reflect [National Security Council spokesman Tommy] Vietor’s statement, the paper made no mention of the update or any correction to the story, leaving readers with the impression that the White House’s denial had been in the story all along. In fact, the initial version of the story portrayed the development as a tentative victory for the Obama administration, which has recently been faced with foreign policy crises in the Middle East and Libya.
The new version of the Times’ story also removed this line about the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions: “Even with possible negotiations in the offing, there is no evidence Iran has slowed its fuel production.”
Normally, a pro forma denial by the White House would not send reporters and editors scurrying to cover up their work. With good sources, and reliable information, journalists could be expected to stand by their story.
Now, with the Times carrying out edits that it apparently hoped no one would notice, the entire story seems like a desperate attempt to set the stage for the Third Presidential Debate in a way that favors the incumbent.
In 2008, the Obama campaign battled against criticism for then-Sen. Obama’s pledge to meet with the leaders of Iran “without preconditions.” The campaign’s lead spokesperson was Susan Rice, who claimed–in the face of clear evidence–that Obama had never made such a commitment. Rice has lately been criticized for her role in misleading the nation about the role of a YouTube video in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
The Third Presidential Debate, which focuses on foreign policy, is Monday evening at 9 p.m. EDT/6 p.m. PDT.