North Carolina Governor's history gets favorable edit

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Most politicians would love a chance to edit their page in the history books. Gov. Mike Easley's staff actually did.

Last year, members of Easley's press office heavily rewrote an entry on him in a book by state-employed historians on North Carolina's governors. Over several drafts, they deleted a reference to a failed U.S. Senate bid, speculation that he dislikes campaigning and a note that he had a boyhood reputation "for making mischief." They added a quote from Easley about patriotism, a line about how he successfully led the state to a "new global economy" and the fact that USA Today once named him one of the country's top drug busters. In the end, more than two-thirds of the final draft came from the governor's office.

Representatives of Easley and the state Department of Cultural Resources, which published the book, said the press office was asked to review and edit "The Governors of North Carolina" before publication.

"We did what we were asked to do and that was to review and edit the book," said Sherri Johnson, a spokeswoman for Easley.

She said Easley did not know about the book until after it was published, and said then that he should have been left out until he had finished his second term.

"He said if we had told him about the book, he would have asked to leave him out," she said.

Harry Watson, a history professor at UNC Chapel Hill and an Easley appointee on an advisory commission for the Cultural Resources department, said he was disappointed by the tone of the governor's entry.

"It sounds like a campaign press release," Watson said.

Michael Hill, the book's editor -- and author of the entry on Easley -- said in an interview that Easley's section was the only entry that was indirectly reviewed by its subject.

Still, he said, "everyone was happy" with the final version.

Hill emphasized that he had final say over the wording of the entry. And at Hill's request, the introduction to the book noted that the Easley sketch "was written after consultation with his Press Office."

"It all came to a good resolution," Hill said.

However, a review of e-mail correspondence between Hill, his bosses and the governor's office -- released under a public records request by The News & Observer -- indicates that the revisions were a contentious subject with the historians at Cultural Resources....

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