Correction: Nov. 3, 2006
A Political Memo article yesterday about the fallout for Senator John Kerry over what he called a “botched joke” referred incompletely to the differences between prepared remarks and what he actually said about the Iraq war to students at Pasadena City College in California on Monday. Mr. Kerry not only dropped the word “us,” but he also rephrased his opening sentence extensively and omitted a reference to President Bush. Mr. Kerry’s aides said that the prepared text read: “Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.” What he said: “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
So, please. If you've been dealing with someone who relies on the New York Times for their information on this, cut them a little slack. They were badly misinformed.
If I might make a suggestion to the New York Times? When dealing with politicians, it's often a good idea to go to the tape of a controversial speech instead of letting the politician's spin doctors or aides tell you what he said. Sometimes they will try to pull a fast one. It happens. Yeah, sure, it's crazy to lie to reporters, but people have been known to do it.
(Full disclosure: I used to be a newspaper reporter. I did get lied to now and then. Once I didn't find that out until a story I'd filed got picked up by the wire services. Gee, that was fun. Not.)
Update: Before you say anything, I am not excusing the original mistake. As far as I can see, in this case the reporter and/or editor either had to be clueless or in on the stunt, neither of which you want to see at any paper, but especially a big one.