The official version of the transcript, as it appears on Time’s web site, is prominently labeled “Putin Q&A: Full Transcript.” The supposedly complete “Q&A” posted there begins thus:
TIME: Despite the cold war, Russia and the United States have found themselves aligned in many of history’s big conflicts: World War I, World War II and now, thanks in large part to your response to 9/11, there seems to be some alignment in the war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. With that history in mind, how do you envision the relationship between Russia and the U.S. going forward?
PUTIN: Indeed, Russia and the U.S. were allies during the two tragic conflicts of the Second and the First World Wars, which allows us to think there’s something objectively bringing us together in difficult times, and I think—I believe—it has to do with geopolitical interests and also has a moral component. Of course, the cold war marked a tragedy in relations between our two countries, and I wouldn’t want to see the vestiges of those relations prevailing in the future…
However, an earlier and more “full and complete” transcript of the interview, posted this week on MediaChannel.org, but which originated on the New Zealand site Scoop.co.nz, has an entirely different beginning, one that makes Time’s senior executives look, well, a bit foolish – as well as incredibly obsequious:
QUESTION: Mr. President! First of all, I would like to thank you on behalf of all my colleagues for your hospitality today. Second, we consider that it is a great honour for us to be able to conduct this interview. Your cooperation with Time magazine means a lot to us. Its result will be a serious material, and quite broad in nature and scope.
I want to start with the first question. You were born in 1946 - I was born in 1948. We belong to the same generation. We grew up in countries that lived with the unavoidable presence of the enemy. But historically, and in most major conflicts - World War One, World War Two - Russia and the United States have been allies. And now, in large part thanks to your role, Russia is cooperating in the struggle against Islamic terrorism.
In view of our history, how would you predict the development of relations between Russia and the United States as they resolve global problems in the future? How would our generation assess their future prospects for cooperation?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: If you will allow me, I will correct you a little bit on certain dates. I could not have been born in 1946 because at that time my father was suffering from the wartime wounds and my mother survived the Leningrad blockade. After they had lost two children and their health it was unlikely that they could have thought of having another child right away. And I think it is for that reason that I was born a little later, in 1952. But this does not change the essence of the problems and the issues you raised - this is absolutely correct.
Got that? The top executives at America’s leading putative newsweekly couldn’t even get the most basic fact about Putin right – namely his date of birth – something Mr. Google told me in just 3.2 (I timed it) seconds!
Admittedly, being off a mere six years about a world leader’s age isn’t, well, the end of the world. But Time’s embarrassing inability to get even this very basic fact correct certainly leads one to question its trustworthiness in other, far larger matters of fact and substance. Moreover, its apparent attempt to cover up the error – and to mislead the public by posting an incomplete transcript and billing it as complete – is even more egregious.
By the time I called Time for reaction, John Huey was unavailable, having already left for the holidays. Managing Editor Richard Stengel was still around, but failed to return several phone calls seeking a “full and complete” explanation of Transcriptgate. Back to you, Rick!