April 17, 2016

New York Times’ transparent spin of Sanders visit to Vatican

Newsdiffs.org [link] has archived 6 versions of the New York Times article at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/us/politics/bernie-sanders-pope-francis-vatican.html. The first was archived at 6:48 a.m. (EST), April 16, and the sixth at 9:56 p.m. the same day. If anyone linked to the original story when it first appeared, the link is now pointing to a completely different one (compare them below).

The first change, recorded at 11:43, began with the title, changing it from "Bernie Sanders Met With Pope Francis, Campaign Says" to "Sanders Says He Met With Pope, Discussing a ‘Moral Economy’ and Climate Change" (no humanizing first names, but also no campaign).

And although more reporting by Jim Yardley (now listed as co-author) was added to Yamiche Alcindor's original, other parts were removed. Notably, the original quoted Jeffrey Sachs in describing the brief meeting, and that was almost completely replaced by the Pope's description of what is now called an "encounter".

In the version recorded at 3:03 p.m., the title was changed again, to "Sanders Briefly Meets Pope at Vatican After Uncertainty Over a Visit" – hinting at the new article to come that will play up a sense of desperate political maneuvering and downplay the actual purpose of the visit, ie, the conference on social and economic justice to commemorate John Paul II's 1991 encyclical "Centesimus Annus".

Here are the original article and the completely different one – now by Jason Horowitz as first author – recorded at 9:56 p.m. Besides the issue of obvious bias in presenting Sanders' trip to the Vatican in as petty a light as possible, it is contemptible that the latter version replaces – without any notice about, let alone a link to – previous versions.

Bernie Sanders Met With Pope Francis, Campaign Says

VATICAN CITY — Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate, met briefly with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday morning before the pontiff’s trip to Greece, a spokesman for the senator’s campaign said.

“The senator and the pope met this morning as the pope was departing for Greece — the goal is to highlight the refugee crisis that affects this part of the world, and all over the world. They talked about that,” said the spokesman, Michael Briggs.

The meeting lasted about five minutes, said the economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, an adviser to the Sanders campaign, who said he had been present. Mr. Sachs said the pope had thanked Mr. Sanders, who arrived Friday at the Vatican for a conference on social and economic issues, “for coming to the meeting and for coming to speak about the moral economy.”

The senator’s wife, Jane Sanders, and Msgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, who organized the conference, were also present at the brief meeting, Mr. Sachs said. Mr. Briggs said no photographs were taken, in accordance with rules at the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican City guesthouse where the meeting took place and Francis lives.

The Vermont senator had hoped to meet with the pope during his short trip to Rome, for which he interrupted his campaigning for the New York primary on Tuesday. But as recently as Friday it appeared unlikely to happen, after the pope sent a note saying he would not be able to attend the conference because of his trip to the Greek island of Lesbos.

Mr. Sanders confirmed in an interview with The Associated Press that the meeting had taken place. “It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him,” he said. “I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”

Politically, a trip to Rome without a meeting with Francis would have been a blunder, Costas Panagopoulos, a political-science professor at Fordham University who is currently teaching at Yale, had said Friday. “The point is to make sure you are going to get an audience with the pope,” he said. “Anything short of an actual visit will probably be a mistake.”

Mr. Sachs, who spoke with a Reuters reporter as journalists traveling with the pope in Greece listened on a speaker phone, said the meeting was “absolutely not political.”

“This is a senator who for decades has been speaking about the moral economy,” he said of Mr. Sanders.

Jim Yardley contributed reporting from Mytilene, Greece.
 Bernie Sanders Meets With Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY — For a while, Senator Bernie Sanders’s Roman holiday seemed less than it was cracked up to be.

Immediately after his campaign announced that he would leave the United States for a “high-level meeting” at the Vatican, questions arose about the wisdom of the trip. The critical New York primary was just days away. One official of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which hosted the conference Mr. Sanders would attend, even suggested he had fished for the invitation.

Most critically, there seemed to be little chance that Mr. Sanders would meet the Vatican resident whose name he frequently invokes. Pope Francis, it turned out, would not be visiting the conference of the academy, an in-house think tank of the Vatican.

Politically, a trip to Rome without a meeting with Francis would have been a blunder, Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University who is teaching at Yale, had said on Friday. “The point is to make sure you are going to get an audience with the pope,” he said. “Anything short of an actual visit will probably be a mistake.”

Mr. Sanders continued to hold out hope. “I certainly would be delighted and proud if I had the opportunity to meet with him,” he said before leaving New York.

He also had two things going for him: his host, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, an Argentine who is the chancellor of the academy and happens to be close to Francis, and his hotel room, also close to the pope. Mr. Sanders was to stay in a second-floor room at Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where Francis keeps his residence.

“So it won’t be difficult to find the pope,” the bishop said last week, seeming to hint at something.

On Thursday, the day before the conference, a Vatican spokesman appeared to end all speculation, saying, “There won’t be a meeting with the Holy Father.”

Bishop Sánchez Sorondo dismissed the statement as “Roman gossip.”

But final word, it seemed, came Friday afternoon in the form of a handwritten letter from the pope apologizing to conference attendees for his absence.

“I will keep them all in my prayers and good wishes, and send them my heartfelt thanks for their participation,” he wrote. “May the Lord bless you. Fraternally, Franciscus.”

Around 5:30 p.m. Friday, the conference’s business ended and Mr. Sanders made an appointment for dinner at the Casa Santa Marta with his foreign policy adviser, Jeffrey D. Sachs, the economist and a fellow conference participant.

Mr. Sanders and his wife, Jane, sat with Mr. Sachs and his wife, Sonia, for a soup and buffet dinner, where they were joined by Bishop Sánchez Sorondo and Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, the pope’s right-hand man and one of the Vatican’s top power players.

“It was a wide-ranging conversation,” Mr. Sachs said. “It was about issues of the church and its history, about Honduras and foreign policy.”
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But the most important words occurred in the middle of dinner, when a personal secretary for Francis arrived with the news Mr. Sanders had been hoping for, Mr. Sachs said.

If Mr. Sanders were in the foyer of the Casa Santa Marta at 6 a.m. the next day, he would be able to speak briefly with Francis as the pope headed to the airport for his Saturday trip to Greece, where the pope would be addressing the migrant crisis.

So early Saturday morning, Mr. Sanders stood in the marble foyer, which looks out onto a large cobblestone drive just inside the Vatican walls. Joining him were his wife, Mr. Sachs and his wife and Bishop Sánchez Sorondo, the senator’s de facto Vatican fixer.

The pope, speaking to reporters on his plane later in the day, described the meeting. “This morning when I was leaving, Senator Sanders was there,” he said, adding, “He knew I was leaving at that time, and he had the courtesy to greet me.”

No photos of the encounter were permitted, but Mr. Sachs said the senator was delighted all the same. He was beaming as he left the guesthouse, and celebrated the informal audience with a victory lap of sorts in St. Peter’s Basilica along with Mr. Sachs and the bishop, passing Bernini’s Baldacchino, a monumental bronze canopy over the papal altar, and Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Aware that his every statement is parsed for deeper meaning, Francis said he was simply being polite, not political.

“I shook his hand and nothing more,” he said. “If someone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics,” he added, laughing, “I recommend that he find a psychiatrist!”

But the candidate was excited to talk about his coveted souvenir.

“I conveyed to him my great admiration for the extraordinary work that he is doing all over the world in demanding that morality be part of our economy,” Mr. Sanders told reporters aboard the plane as it rushed him back to the campaign in New York.

Jim Yardley contributed reporting from Mytilene, Greece.