DULLES, Va. — Early Wednesday evening, the New York Times published an article online titled, "Behind Romney’s Decision to Attack Obama on Libya,” that included an exceptionally juicy quote about halfway down.
In that story — whose text was emailed to reporters by the liberal group Americans United for Change — there was a paragraph that read as follows:
And as an adviser to the campaign who worked in the George W. Bush administration said on Wednesday, Mr. Romney’s accusation that Mr. Obama had invited the attacks because he had weakened America looked like “he had forgotten the first rule in a crisis: don’t start talking before you understand what’s happening.”
Within hours, however, that story — initially bylined David Sanger and Ashley Parker — was replaced by a lengthier, more fleshed-out version of the story, now bylined by Peter Baker and Ashley Parker. (The initial item can be read here.) The new article included more context, a few fresh bits of reporting, and a structure that seemed more fitting for the print edition of the newspaper. It also carried a new headline: "A Challenger’s Criticism Is Furiously Returned." (The URL for the story still included the original headline.)
But the new version of the story was missing the quote from the anonymous Romney adviser slamming his own candidate — perhaps the newsiest piece of information in the original item.
The current version of the story does include quotes from other Republicans questioning the timing of Romney's aggressive critiques of the Obama administration, but not from anyone officially aligned with the campaign.
UPDATE: Peter Baker emails to dismiss speculation that the quote was pulled for any but the most banal reasons.
"It's just normal journalism -- as more reporting comes in, you improve the story. On the record Republican criticism beats anonymous Republican criticism," he emails.
New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha added, “As the reporting went on during the day, we were able to flesh out the story, add more context and get more sources on the record. Having said that, we stand by the reporting in all versions of the story.”
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at email@example.com.
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