AOH :: WH-EDITS.TXT|
Did you know that the Whitehouse edits PR releases?
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House concedes it deleted the word
``lie'' four times in issuing a sanitized electronic version of a
press release attacking a critic of President Clinton's health
``We reserve the right to edit,'' said press secretary Dee Dee
Myers after another official at first denied a change had been
The alteration has angered at least one computer buff,
California attorney Justin Roberts. He suggests the White House
isn't being completely honest on the subject of lies.
``Let's not use the information superhighway to distort public
documents,'' he said in a phone interview.
Roberts said he was surprised when he dialed up White House
documents on his computer and found a watered-down version of a
press release denouncing New York scholar Elizabeth McCaughey for
an article she wrote on the health-care plan in The New Republic
The original 10-page White House press release had used the
phrases ``blatant lie'' and ``yet another lie'' to dismiss her
criticism of the plan and was widely distributed in Washington.
The episode created something of a tempest, giving the article
far wider attention than it would have otherwise received.
McCaughey defended her views in a succession of newspaper and
The version available to subscribers of on-line computer
services around the nation was far milder -- replacing ``blatant
lie'' with ``that is wrong'' and other less controversial language.
Roberts said he sent electronic mail to the White House to find
out why the press release had been altered -- and was told it
``You should know that we do not edit or alter documents posted
to (the computer service),'' Jonathan Gill, who oversees the
computer mail operation, wrote to Roberts in e-mail.
Roberts made a copy of the exchange available to The Associated
``It would appear that the reporter in question may have
obtained an unpublished, earlier draft with a different vocabulary.
Again, we do not alter documents,'' the White House official wrote.
But the press release was altered, White House officials
conceded on Thursday.
``We certainly don't deny that we put out the original
document,'' said Myers. ``There's a different version running on
the computer service.''
She said Gill should have checked with her first but, ``I don't
think there's anything sinister out there.''
Gill said on Thursday that he didn't know about the earlier
version -- and didn't mean to misrepresent the White House position.
Roberts, an attorney in Lafayette, Calif., said he doesn't think
the White House should put out one version of a press release in
Washington then alter it for computer distribution.
``The White House explanation is not satisfactory,'' he said.
``The integrity of the information that is available by on-line
access is what is at issue here.''
Jeff Eller, White House media affairs director, said the newer,
milder version is the one he prefers.
``The one that went out with the word lie, inadvertently went
out. It was a mistake. It was my fault.''
Originally, the White House branded as ``a blatant lie''
McCaughey's assertion that escaping the Clinton health care system
and paying a specialist out of pocket for tests would be ``almost
impossible.'' The altered version says instead: ``that is wrong.''
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