The Times Again Corrects Itself on Kerry's "Botched Joke"

The Times still can't nail down the basic details of what Sen. John Kerry said about U.S. troops being "stuck in Iraq."

For the second time in less than three months, the Times is forced to correct basic facts in a story regarding Sen. John Kerry's "botched joke" about U.S. troops being "stuck in Iraq." (TimesWatch pointed out the repeat flub yesterday.)

The Times has appended a thorough correction to political reporter Adam Nagourney's Thursday article.

"An article yesterday about Senator John Kerry's announcement that he would not seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 incorrectly described what he called 'a botched joke' he told before the November midterm elections. In telling the joke, which was assailed as an attack on American troops fighting in Iraq, Mr. Kerry not only dropped a word from his prepared remarks, but he also rephrased his opening sentence extensively and omitted a reference to President Bush. Mr. Kerry's aides said that the prepared text read: 'Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.' What he actually said: 'You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.'"

The Times was forced to issue a similarly long and involved correction the day after Kate Zernike's November 2 report, which made the exact same mistake.

The Times newspaper runs a gauntlet of reporters, fact-checkers, editors, and subeditors before it hits your door, yet it seems incapable of gathering the basic details of Kerry's gaffe - specifically, the words Kerry actually spoke. Would the Times be so careless and uninterested if Dan Quayle had "botched" a joke? One suspects they'd have every unflattering detail nailed down cold.Untilthe Times' crewstarts displayingthe same level of interest in Democratic gaffes, perhaps the Corrections box should reserve space for the paper's next reference to the senator's "botched joke."