For the third time in as many weeknights, the NBC Nightly News has devoted airtime to the fuss over Sarah Palin’s recounting of Paul Revere’s ride at the onset of the Revolutionary War. This time, the newscast featured a full report by correspondent Lee Cowan showcasing how both Palin supporters and detractors have been attempting to edit the Wikipedia page about Revere.
That’s the same issue that bothered anchor Brian Williams on Monday night (Williams was off on Tuesday, with Lester Holt substituting). On the June 6 broadcast, Williams noted that “a political web site reported today Palin supporters have attempted to change the story of Revere's ride on Wikipedia to reflect her version of events.”
But with Wiki’s Paul Revere page now locked and presumably scrubbed of the unwanted submissions of the Palinites, the account seems to back pretty much everything Palin said. And, throughout all of their coverage, which began Friday night, NBC has — with minor exceptions — carefully avoided saying exactly what Palin has said that is supposedly incorrect.
Williams on Friday played the following clip of Palin in Boston:
SARAH PALIN: He who warned the British that they weren’t be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.
That night, Williams only specifically disputed the reference to bells: “Of course, the real life version involves lanterns.” In the brief item on Monday, Williams simply asserted that Palin’s story “differs with history,” but offered no specific clarification.
In Tuesday’s story, both the introduction by anchor Lester Holt and a soundbite from NBC historian Michael Beschloss took aim at how, in Holt’s words, Palin had “said Revere was out to warn the British.” The main piece, by Cowan, did not quarrel with Palin at all, but documented how the “Wikipedians” at Wikipedia have had to chase down “dozens of revisions” in recent days, to the point where now, Cowan revealed, “the site is now temporarily locked.”
But the now “locked” Wikipedia site, presumably now cleansed of partisan shenanigans, recounts how Revere was captured by the British and told his captors “that British army troops would be in some danger” (a warning?) and how the “town bell began to clang rapidly” to alert the town — all of which would seem to confirm Palin’s rendition.