– N.Y. Times scraps AIPAC from Syria story (Politico, Sep 3, 2013):
A reference to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC was mysteriously cut from a New York Times article published online Monday and in print Tuesday. The first version, published online Monday, quotes an anonymous administration official calling AIPAC the “800-pound gorilla in the room.” The original article, which is still available on The Boston Globe’s site, had two paragraphs worth of quotes from officials about the powerful lobbying group’s position in the Syria debate:
Administration officials said the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats’ traditional base among Jews.
One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called AIPAC “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, “If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line” against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, “we’re in trouble.”
The newer version makes no reference to AIPAC and does not include an editor’s note explaining any change, other than a typical note at the end of the story noting that a version of the article appeared in the Tuesday print edition of the Times.
But journalists and media critics took note of the change. Around 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted, “Unless, I’m mistaken, all references to AIPAC cut from this story.”
Goldberg told POLITICO the missing AIPAC piece is “strange” and suggested that someone from AIPAC or the White House complained.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s very strange. It doesn’t make sense that it was cut for space in the print edition, because the AIPAC passage was quite newsworthy. Plus, there’s obviously no space issue on the Web. It seems plausible that someone from AIPAC, or the White House, complained about the accuracy of the passage,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg said the passage is “accurate” and that according to his reporting AIPAC is lobbying on the Hill on behalf of President Barack Obama.
“Conspiracy theories don’t make sense, though, because the Times is not particularly friendly to the AIPAC worldview, and has certainly covered AIPAC critically in the past,” Goldberg said.
New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said the Times was looking into an inquiry made by POLITICO about the story, but had no comment yet. AIPAC declined to comment for this story.
UPDATE (12:24 p.m.): Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha emails:
We regularly edit web stories for the print paper. This particular change was made to avoid repeating the same thought which ran in a page one story on Monday. That article entitled, “President Seeks to Rally Support for Syria Strike” included the following:
“One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called the American Israel Political Affairs Committee “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, ‘If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line’ — against catastrophic use of chemical weapons — ‘we’re in trouble.'”