NYT's Cooper Sanitizes and Spins Report on Hagel's Sacking for Tuesday's Print Edition

November 25th, 2014 1:09 PM

The New York Times continued its annoying, Winston Smith-like habit of rewriting history in virtually real time yesterday.

Helene Cooper's original Monday afternoon report on Chuck Hagel's sacking as Secretary of Defense is no longer available at the Times. However, since I anticipated that the paper would conduct a comprehensive cleanup yesterday when I posted on the paper's original coverage, it is available here at my web host for fair use and discussion purposes. Cooper's Tuesday Page 1 print edition replacement is starkly different from her original effort. Side-by-side comparisons of certain sections follow the jump.

RedState's Erick Erickson also noted Cooper's rewrite this morning, and helpfully provided context (HT Instapundit; bolds are mine throughout this post):

The Pentagon wants America to believe Secretary Hagel was not fired, but the New York Times hit job breaking the news of his retirement is proof he was (i.e., Cooper's original report — Ed.). The White House did not just throw Secretary Hagel under the bus, it rolled over him multiple times to ensure he is finished.

After two Secretaries of Defense leaving, then writing critical pieces about President Obama, the White House decided the third SecDef needed to be destroyed on the way out so any criticisms can immediately be cast as sour grapes by a compliant press.

Apparently following what might as well be a stylebook rule — "Cast Republicans in a negative light, even if they're complete bystanders" — Cooper's first rewrite occurred in her very first paragraph:


Poor Barack Obama. Maybe he wouldn't have had to do anything about Hagel if it weren't for those "hawkish" Republicans. I guess we're supposed to believe there are no "hawkish" Democrats. Hmm. A lot of them at least tried to sound hawkish during their most recent election campaigns.

Now let's look at several key paragraphs showing how hard the Times toiled to revise Cooper's original work to fit its leftist template and, in my view, to add major doses of Obama administration-recommended spin (numbered tags are mine):



[1] (tagged in both stories) — Here we see the Times move from a bland description of troop drawdowns in Afghanistan to Dear Leader Barack picking Hagel to heroically resist those heartless bloodthirsty warmongers in the Pentagon who actually wanted to see the hard-earned efforts of U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan bear long-term fruit. No sirree — Turning tail and getting out of those countries as quickly as possible has been far more important than preserving the U.S. victory in Iraq in 2008, or leaving Afghanistan in a viable condition.

[2] — Oh my God, Helene. How could you have put the "shrinking Pentagon budget" in the story so early? Don't you know that the Times stylebook requires that any cuts in military spending — virtually the only area in government where real cuts have taken place during Obama's six years in office — either can't be mentioned or at the very least must be buried deeply in later paragraphs? The Times's front-page story today doesn't mention the Pentagon's "shrinking budget" until Paragraph 12, and only then in the context of "automatic defense budget cuts" (i.e., another thing that the left blames on Republicans, even though sequestration was the White House's idea).

[3] (tagged in both stories) — Note how Cooper's original "war footing" was a neutral thing, while the revised story's "found itself back on a war footing" language pretends that it was something foisted on the administration by uncontrollable outside events. Wrong: The current quagmire throughout the Middle East is the completely foreseeable result of six years of poor American leadership uninterested in victory and deeply distrusting of anything anyone in the military might recommend.

[4] — Surely some form of punishment awaits Helene Cooper for daring to write that the Obama administration doesn't have an "articulate ... coherent strategy to defeat the group in both Iraq and Syria." It happens to be the truth. But a Times writer never-ever-ever admits that a Democratic or liberal administration doesn't have its policies completely under control. Talk of an Iraq-Syria strategy — absent the word "coherent," of course — did not appear in the print edition story until the final three of its roughly two dozen paragraphs.

[5] — Cooper's original story didn't mention Syria or Gitmo at all. The language added to the print edition story appears to be an attempt, possibly with the intervention of Team Obama apparatchiks, to fabricate more justifications for Hagel's sacking.

Cooper was apparently oblivious to the obvious tension at yesterday's official announcement — or perhaps she was waiting for Team Obama to tell her how much of it she would be allowed to communicate. Whatever is the case, today's report contains four harshly worded paragraphs (4 through 7):

The strains were evident in a stilted ceremony on Monday at the White House, where Mr. Obama called the defense secretary he had pushed out “exemplary” and lauded his status as the first enlisted combat veteran to hold the job, saying it had helped him to empathize with American soldiers. “He’s been in the dirt. He’s been in the mud,” Mr. Obama said. “He sees himself in them. They see themselves in him.”

But as the president spoke of the “blood and treasure and sacrifices” of enlisted men and women like Mr. Hagel, turning several times to try to address his defense secretary directly, Mr. Hagel stared ahead fixedly, declining to make eye contact with Mr. Obama.

When it was his turn to speak, Mr. Hagel described the president’s national security strategy as a “team effort,” and spoke of trying to “build teams and to work together to make things happen for the good of the country.”

In reality, Mr. Hagel was never able to penetrate the president’s tight national security team of West Wing loyalists, officials at the White House and the Pentagon said. And faced with the calls for a shake-up of his national security staff to better deal with an onslaught of global crises, Mr. Obama balked at the idea of replacing Ms. Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry or the powerful White House chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough.

Wow. Not that anyone in this administration is a superstar, but Hagel, for all his considerable faults, was vastly more competent than Susan "Blame the Video for Benghazi" Rice, John "Christmas in Cambodia" Kerry, and Denis "Dead Vets Because of VA Waiting Lists Are No Big Deal" McDonough.

This could go on forever. Readers who want to go further can compare the original saved here to today's Times story here.

RedState's Erickson identified another noteworthy print story omission, and aptly summarized the mission behind Cooper's rewrite:

Taken as a whole, the original New York Times story paints a pretty damning picture of the White House’s national security policy setting. Mr. Hagel, so long as he was a loyal foot soldier for the President, was okay even if he was on the outside of the White House cool kidz team.

But the moment Hagel spoke up on ISIS, contradicting the White House, it was game over.

In other words, Chuck Hagel was not fired for incompetence. He was fired for telling the truth on ISIS — calling it an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” thereby forcing Barack Obama to deal with a threat he very much would like to ignore.

It’s only made more interesting by the New York Times’s decision to complete delete that bit explaining the motivation for his firing. (from its print edition report — Ed.)

In an indication of how brazen the Times has become in its memory-hole exercises, the Old Gray Lady doesn't even appear to care that the URL of the revised story still reads "http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/us/hagel-said-to-be-stepping-down-as-defense-chief-under-pressure.html" — indicating to anyone who notices it should recognize that what they're reading now has obviously been revised since when Hagel was only "said to be stepping down." One can almost imagine the newsroom editors saying, "So? What are you going to do about it?"

Well, not much really, guys, except that in this case, someone still has a record of your original story to compare to your spun and sanitized version. So at least some people will know a little more about how your Winston Smith-like enterprise really operates, and what little remains of your credibility will take yet another richly deserved hit.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.