HERE IS a partial transcript of Senator Biden's remarks at the October 2 vice-presidential debate in St. Louis. Strikethroughs and underlinings correct errors in the final transcript.
BIDEN: Can I respond? Look, all you
have to dogot to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or'n's go to Katie's Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me . . . .
Contention about this segment flared Friday morning when blog fact-checkers (here is one of many) said Katie's Restaurant had closed several years ago and that, in any event, it was not on Union Street -- charges that, if true, would cast serious doubt on Mr. Biden's man-of-the-people street cred, so to speak.
Biden supporters have defended against the closing problem by saying the senator was probably referring to another restaurant. They have also argued that the senator's "or" -- as reflected in the final transcript -- protects him against "Union Street," even if he meant Katie's.
But while it is not absolutely clear what Mr. Biden did say, it is absolutely clear that he did not say "or."
Instead, he uttered an odd, slurred sound that began with an "n." He sounded as if he were using an informal "n" for "and" as one might do when saying, "We went fishin' 'n' then we went huntin'."
Mr. Biden's "n" then elided into an "s" that cannot be explained. It's just there, much as the stray "s" is there in Senator Obama's famous "all we's can say is merci beaucoup."
The debate transcriber, understanding that Mr. Biden needed a conjunction but not quite understanding what he had said, supplied a bright, shiny "or."
This sort of clean-up work is fairly common in transcripts and among journalists. Usually it matters not. Sometimes, however, these on-the-fly repair jobs cause mischief, as here.
The transcriber was also wrong to change "got to do" to the more refined (and grammatically correct) "have to do."
Media bias? Probably not, in part because the stakes are so low and in part because the transcriber could not reasonably be expected to have known in advance, even if biased, whether Mr. Biden would be better off with an "and" or an "or."
The simple explanation is usually best, and the simple explanation is that "or" was a plain-vanilla transcription error.
In all likelihood, a careful review of the debate transcript would turn up dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other similar errors.
Which is why you need to be very, very cautious about trusting transcripts, even from unbiased sources.
Stir in the ingredient of bias, as with too many journalists, and the trust level should be even lower.
UPDATE: You can check my transcription against the video by clicking here, then running the tape to about the 68-minute mark.
UPDATE: This post may have had the highest readership of anything Unca Darrell has ever posted. Go figure.