L.A. Times changing facts in story about Fred Thompson and abortion – Response from LAT Added

This is somewhat unbelievable actually. For some background, the LA Times ran a story the other day stating that Thompson was lobbying for pro-choice causes adamantly back in 1991.

In fact, the original LA Times story has been changed on their site. This is the new opening to the story:

Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.

This, via Hot Air, is the old opening:

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as a “pro-life” Republican, accepted a lobbying assignment from a family-planning group to persuade the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and five people familiar with the matter.

However, there are also more changes. This section here was in the original story posted by the LA Times:

At one of the meals, she recalled, Thompson re-enacted a cowboy death scene from one of his movies. She also remembered him telling her that Sununu had just given him tickets for a VIP tour of the White House for one of Thompson’s sons and his wife.

And the new section, revised seen here on LATimes.com at this moment:

Thompson kept her updated on his progress in telephone conversations and over meals at Washington restaurants, including dinner at Galileo and lunch at the Monocle, she said. At one of the meals, she recalled, Thompson told her that Sununu had just given him tickets for a VIP tour of the White House for a Thompson son and his wife.

Something doesn’t seem right as there have been no corrections or notations that the story has been changed. Is the LA Times posting an outright smear on Thompson because they fear?

Allah at Hot Air has more:

The detail about the cowboy scene is up in smoke, perhaps with good reason: as Geraghty notes, Fred doesn’t seem to have acted in any westerns before 1991. There’s no explanation for its disappearance on the LAT page and nothing on the paper’s Corrections page.

I’m not sure what accounts for the pro-life/antiabortion change (an LAT style quirk, maybe) but here’s a possible explanation for the switch from “five people” to several. The five sources quoted in the piece in support of the claim that Fred “accepted a lobbying assignment” for the group are Judith DeSarno, Michael Barnes, and then the following three. I’m assuming nothing’s changed from the original version but at this point who can tell?

The changes in the first paragraph are obviously much less important than the one about the cowboy movie, which speaks to DeSarno’s credibility. I don’t know what the story is here but for a major paper to be dropping facts and rewording passages without noting it, in a bombshell story no less, is suspicious — but not surprising. As we learned during Jamilgate, the AP pulls this crap as a matter of official policy (”For corrections on live, online stories, we overwrite the previous version. We send separate corrective stories online as warranted.”) and there’s at least one notorious instance of it happening within the very bowels of the bible of the journalism industry. Exit question: What gives?

National Review is also busting this story wide open here:

The commenter points out that Thompson had not acted in a Western at that point, and had not until this year’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”

Here’s where it gets really interesting: The “cowboy death scene” comments, once prominent in the story (DeSarno is referred to by full name and role within the organization, indicating this is the first reference to her), have now been removed from the Los Angeles Times article.

There is no doubt in my mind that left wing elements fear the impending Thompson candidacy. That’s the only reason I can think of as to why the LA Times would be posting a story, then changing it as their facts are discovered to be false. This could be a major scandal for the LA Times if they were knowingly making changes and not even posting corrections. Of course, what do we really expect but still.

As of this time, I have placed a call to the LA Times corrections number leaving a message asking why these changes were made and no corrections were posted. They supposedly will return calls if you leave a number. I will post if/when I receive an answer back from the LA Times.


I’ve also emailed, awaiting any response.


Newsbusters has it that the sources referenced by the LA Times are all Hillary supporters:

The AP did a wonderful job making this story seem more cut and dried than it really is, of course, but the fact is, this claim of Thompson’s supposed lobbying for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association is nothing but an unproven (and maybe unprovable) claim against Thompson made by people who are well-known, far left activists and heavy contributors to the Hillary Clinton for President campaign. Naturally, neither the AP nor the L.A.Times wastes any time to detail the history of those making these claims against Thompson, leaving their relevant backgrounds completely out of the story.

Gee… why do you think they’d forget to let readers know that this story is based solely of the good word of Hillary supporters?

Full story here.


I just received this email response from Jamie Gold:

Dear Mr. *******,

Some of the changes you note are style changes, which occur as articles get posted online, and then get copy edited again.

When factual changes are made, though, a note needs to be attached to tell readers if there was an error and if so, why the story was changed.

Thanks for bringing up these specifics, and I’ll look into the changes now.

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

So I guess we’ll be waiting for an attached note stating the changes. Let the record show I received this email at 6:27pm eastern on 7/9/07.


Now 8:31pm eastern and still no notice with the story saying that changes to the facts were made. Also nothing on the corrections page.