Chrysler 200 review controversy causes critic to quit

Chrysler 200: Detroit News' auto critic's original review made it into the newspaper's March 10 print edition. But some of the most critical passages, including Burgess' calling the sedan a 'dog,' were removed from the paper's online version.

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    This Dec. 6, 2010 file picture shows a 2011 Chrysler 200 outside the Chrysler Sterling Heights Assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Mich.

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The Detroit News' auto critic said Thursday that he resigned because editors demanded that he delete sections of a scathing review of the Chrysler 200, a car promoted in a popular Super Bowl television ad starring rapper Eminem.

Scott Burgess' original review made it into the newspaper's March 10 print edition. But some of the most critical passages, including Burgess' calling the sedan a "dog," were removed from the paper's online version.

Burgess, 43, said he resigned Wednesday after meeting with the paper's news editor and publisher, Jon Wolman.

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"It's just a matter of principle," Burgess told The Associated Press.

He said he was told March 11 what to take out of the online version.

"I regret not standing up and saying, 'no, we can't change this.' I felt I'm just as guilty letting it happen," he said. "I kind of felt like a deer in the headlights. I didn't know what to do."

Wolman acknowledged that the newspaper changed the online version after a car dealer complained about it. But he told the AP on Thursday that the paper's editors did not try to change the negative tone of the review.

"Our intent was to make an editing improvement, and we obviously handled it poorly," Wolman said. "We should have let the online version of the review stand as written, as we did in the print version."

Indeed, the changed version did not heap praise on the Chrysler 200, which competes with the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, among others. Detroit still is buzzing about the Super Bowl ad that showed Eminem driving a 200 through the city's downtown. The catchy slogan: "Imported from Detroit."

Burgess' online review did not include this passage, which was in the print version: "If this car came in tortoise shell, the EPA would have to put it on the endangered sedan list to prevent trappers and automotive enthusiasts from rightfully shooting it into extinction."

Both versions carried these lines: "The Chrysler 200 makes me angry. No one is prouder of the Motor City, and I want every carmaker, foreign and domestic, to produce world-class cars and trucks. When that happens, consumers win."

Rich Harshbarger, a spokesman for Detroit Media Partnership, which runs the newspaper's business operations, said it's unfortunate that Burgess resigned.

"This organization still stands for the truth and telling the truth," Harshbarger said.

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