A former New York congressman and Reagan-era U.S. ambassador, Fred J. Eckert now lives in Raleigh. He shares with Washington Examiner readers this morning his assessment of the News & Observer’s coverage of the Perdue election-suspension gaffe.

The story went up with this headline: “Purdue Discusses Suspending Congressional Elections.” The writer added: “The comment — which came during a discussion of the economy — perked more than a few ears. It’s unclear whether Perdue, a Democrat, is serious — but her tone was level and she asked others to support her on the idea.”

This story, as originally posted, contained no indication of whether Perdue or anyone in the audience took her plan to violate the U.S. Constitution as a joke. Yet within a couple hours the News & Observer changed its headline to: “Perdue Jokes About Suspending Congressional Elections.”

Joke? Says who? Not Perdue. Not the reporter who posted the report. Not anyone who heard her make her remarks. The source of this “clarification” was a helpful “spokesperson” for Perdue, who “clarified” that she was “using hyperbole.”

Many commentators did find her remarks funny, but they were laughing at Perdue, not with her. Among those who “suspend” elections so they don’t have to “worry” about voters’ opinions are a whole series of good-for-nothings — Hitler, Fidel and others.

But the Raleigh News & Observer took its marching orders. Not only did it change “discusses” to “jokes,” but it also added a blog by its senior editor under the banner, “Gov. Perdue’s little joke,” lamenting that Perdue’s goofy remarks had been taken out of context and picked up by the Drudge Report, which it described as “one of the most popular web sites on the planet not involving porn.”