Is Jay Severin making up quotations?

In Jay Severin’s blog today, he writes:

There has been considerable evidence that this President is fundamentally out of touch with many of us – but none more head-shaking to me than news the Obama’s ordered their White House staff "nothing religious for Christmas…no manger, no statues, nothing…”

That was a rather eye-popping quote, so I immediately Googled [obama “nothing religious for christmas”]. I got one hit: Jay’s blog. So I googled [Obama manger display], and that led me to this Wall Street Manna blog post. That post, in turn, led me to a New York Times article about White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, which seems to have been the original source for the story about the White House Christmas display. Here’s what the Times said on the matter:

…Washington is a city that likes its traditions, and Ms. Rogers has raised a few eyebrows by trying to bend them. When former social secretaries gave a luncheon to welcome Ms. Rogers earlier this year, one participant said, she surprised them by suggesting the Obamas were planning a “non-religious Christmas” — hardly a surprising idea for an administration making a special effort to reach out to other faiths.

The lunch conversation inevitably turned to whether the White House would display its crèche, customarily placed in a prominent spot in the East Room. Ms. Rogers, this participant said, replied that the Obamas did not intend to put the manger scene on display — a remark that drew an audible gasp from the tight-knit social secretary sisterhood. (A White House official confirmed that there had been internal discussions about making Christmas more inclusive and whether to display the crèche.)

Yet in the end, tradition won out; the executive mansion is now decorated for the Christmas holiday, and the crèche is in its usual East Room spot.

It’s one thing for Jay Severin to take that story and spin it wildly to suggest that the Obamas are somehow anti-Christmas, but the use of quotation marks in Jay’s blog to imply that the President had explicitly banned religious display from the White House is misleading and a breach of blogging etiquette.

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