Romney has been getting a severe drubbing for his response to the attacks and protests in Egypt and Libya. A piece in the Times added to that drumbeat; it featured anonymous Romney advisers criticizing the candidate's actions and, in one case, saying that he had been so harsh in his statements because "we've had this consistent critique and narrative on Obama's foreign policy, and we felt this was a situation that met our critique."
But that piece soon vanished, and was replaced by a very different one under the same URL. Some of the most biting quotes were removed in the process. After Talking Points Memo highlighted the discrepancies, the Times was forced to respond.
One of the authors of the new piece, Peter Baker, told HuffPost that some of the anonymous quotes had been removed because they were replaced by on-the-record statements. Phil Corbett, the Times' standards editor, also told HuffPost that it's common policy to rework a piece under the same URL.
On Wednesday, Margaret Sullivan, the Times' new public editor, weighed in. She appeared to like the first version of the story better, saying that it had been clearer on the crucial issue of the timing of Romney's attacks. Sullivan concluded that, while she understood that the paper refines stories all of the time, the pieces were so different that they should have been kept separate:
The stories were very different in wording, if not in intent, and the quotes from Romney advisers were striking ones to remove altogether.
It's clear to me that these two versions should have been treated as different stories and that both should have remained accessible on the Web site.