In its initial reporting on the weekend release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity, the Associated Press quoted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel telling a hangar full of soldiers what a happy day it was because, "We got one of our own back."
The soldiers' reaction, according to the AP: crickets.
The AP has since nixed that passage, cutting Hagel and the silent soldiers out of its final version, and while the AP is defending the move as standard practice, Tom Blumer at the conservative media watchdog NewsBusters contends that the retroactive content-scrubbing is revisionist history — and could be aimed at helping reduce embarrassment for the Obama administration.
"Establishment press outfits have an annoying and in my view fundamentally deceptive tendency to make the content of news reports disappear once they have been 'updated' with new information," Blumer wrote. "The Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, is one of this technique's most egregious practitioners."
Blumer's investigation takes as its starting point the following tweet:
AP: Hagel met with silence when he told troops in Bagram hangar: "This is a happy day. We got one of our own back." http://t.co/vRYVip31tr— David Cloud (@David Cloud) 1401674726.0
The tweet quotes Hagel speaking glowingly about Bergdahl's release, and says the assembled soldiers have no reaction to the news.
But click on the link in the tweet, and you'll find an AP story that does not contain the quoted section.
As Blumer put it, the "AP has virtually deep-sixed" the passage out of embarrassment, since in the days after Bergdahl's release, more and more military members have come forward questioning Bergdahl's loyalties and casting doubt on the assertion that his release was any kind of triumph for the United States.
Paul Colford, a spokesman for the Associated Press, defended the edits and called Blumer's critique "misinformed," saying the changes to the story are simply an example of standard wire service practice.
"[S]ome information in a wire story is commonly replaced with newer information, fresh quotes etc. as it is written-thru again and again," Colford told TheBlaze. "As a result, it’s misleading to say that a reader’s preferred phrase or anecdote has been willfully 'deleted' in an updated version of the same story."
The original AP language can still be found in some places:
Hagel was met with silence when he told troops in a Bagram hangar: "This is a happy day. We got one of our own back." It was unclear whether the absence of cheers and applause came from a reluctance to display emotion in front of the Pentagon chief or from any doubts among the troops about Bergdahl.
The reason the AP is trashing the bit about Hagel and the lack of cheering, Blumer contends, is that it's becoming clear that many soldiers have little love for Bergdahl.
"Unskeptically relaying General Dunford's questionable assertion about 'excitement that spread through U.S. ranks' is bad enough," Blumer wrote. "But the howler about the possibility that the silence might have been due to 'reluctance to display emotion' is a sick joke. Even 'doubts among the troops about Bergdahl' downplays the situation. 'Anger at someone they believe was a deserter and a possible enemy collaborator' is more like it."
Many have questioned whether Bergdahl is a hero or a deserter, with the parents of one solider reportedly killed searching for Bergdahl saying their son labeled Bergdahl a deserter and alleging that there is a "cover-up just like Benghazi" surrounding Bergdahl's release.
Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter