NY Times removes reference to forced Islam conversion from article (UPDATED)

Curious edit of an article already published by the New York TimesJim Treacher at the Daily Caller explains:

Here’s the latest example of the New York Times censoring itself to avoid offending Muslims after an act of Islamic terror. This morning, BenK at Ace of Spades quoted an NYT story by Liz Alderman titled “Survivors Retrace a Scene of Horror at Charlie Hebdo.” Take note of these two paragraphs from that story:

Sigolène Vinson, a freelancer who had decided to come in that morning to take part in the meeting, thought she would be killed when one of the men approached her.

Instead, she told French news media, the man said, “I’m not going to kill you because you’re a woman, we don’t kill women, but you must convert to Islam, read the Quran and cover yourself,” she recalled.

I was intrigued by this quote, and it seemed worth exploring, so I went to the NYT story to quote it. But guess what?

Here’s what it says now:

Sigolène Vinson, a freelance journalist who had come in that morning to take part in the meeting, said that when the shooting started, she thought she would be killed.

Ms. Vinson said in an interview that she dropped to the floor and crawled down the hall to hide behind a partition, but one of the gunmen spotted her and grabbed her by the arm, pointing his gun at her head. Instead of pulling the trigger, though, he told her she would not be killed because she was a woman.

“Don’t be afraid, calm down, I won’t kill you,” the gunman told her in a steady voice, with a calm look in his eyes, she recalled. “You are a woman. But think about what you’re doing. It’s not right.”

Nothing about telling her to convert to Islam. Nothing about telling her to read the Quran. Nothing about telling her to cover her face.

Even more curious, Vinson told the exact same story about the shooter warning her to convert to Islam to Radio France Internationale.

The Daily Caller commentary is nonsense:

So, imagine yourself as an NYT editor for a moment, if you can withstand the nausea. Why would you specifically take out the part about the Islamic terrorist proselytizing for Islam in the middle of the terrorist attack? Why delete this woman’s account of being threatened at gunpoint and being told to convert to Islam?

That’s easy. Because you’re one of America’s moral, ethical, and intellectual betters, and you don’t want it to be true. Your reporter hastily left that inconvenient truth in her story by accident, so you airbrushed it out, without any acknowledgment, to preserve the narrative. You turned it into, “Hey, maybe these guys aren’t so bad after all. They didn’t kill the women, right? Let’s not be too hasty.”

Because that’s your job.

There is absolutely nothing in that story that would lead a reader to conclude that the terrorists "aren't so bad after all."  Treacher is allowing his own bias against the Times to dictate his analysis.

There are a number of reasons besides wanting to sanitize the narrative for removing the sentence from later editions.  It's entirely possible that the Times editor did not want to offend Muslim sensibilities, although I fail to see how the sentence offends anyone.  When reporting on Islamic State killings, the Times has no problem mentioning the forced conversion angle.  Why hesitate now?

As long as they didn't make the new Vinson quote up out of whole cloth, the edit is probably a simple matter of an editor's preference for a different slant.  If you are going to ascribe something sinister or devious to the edit, you need a little more proof than anything in Treacher's blog.

Update: Witness misquoted

The latest version of the NY Times article in question says that Ms. Vinson told the Times she never uttered the "forced conversion" quote:

She disputed a quotation attributed to her and carried on the website of the French radio service RFI stating that the gunman had told her she should convert to Islam, read the Quran and cover herself. Instead, she told The New York Times in an interview, the gunman told her: “Don’t be afraid, calm down, I won’t kill you.” He spoke in a steady voice, she said, with a calm look in his eyes, saying: “ ‘You are a woman. But think about what you’re doing. It’s not right.’ ” Then she said he turned to his partner, who was still shooting, and shouted: “We don’t shoot women! We don’t shoot women! We don’t shoot women!”

The earlier version of the story did not mention the misquote, which is unfortunate.

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