Referring to the passages, Managing Editor Robert Blau said, "Our credibility as seekers of fact can't be compromised. That's a mission and an identity that we hold dear."
Olesker's credibility was questioned more than a year ago by members of the governor's staff. They complained about a Nov. 16, 2004, column in which Olesker wrote that Ehrlich's communications director, Paul E. Schurick, was "struggling mightily to keep a straight face" when he said political gain was not a consideration in the governor's appearances in commercials promoting state tourism. Olesker acknowledged that he did not attend the hearing at which Schurick spoke and apologized, saying the reference to Schurick's expression was intended metaphorically, not literally.
FOR THE RECORD - An article Wednesday about the resignation of columnist Michael Olesker from The Sun misspelled the name of New York Times reporter David Leonhardt.
The Sun regrets the errors.
The governor's office also accused Olesker of concocting a conversation with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele at Pimlico Race Course in May 2004. But a few days after leveling the accusation, Ehrlich's office retracted it and acknowledged that Steele had spoken to the columnist.
Olesker began writing for newspapers while a student at City College and, according to a biographical note from one of his publishing houses, "imagined nothing in the world could be more fun than meeting interesting people and writing about them."
He worked as a reporter in London, England, for The Middlesex County Times and later joined the News American in Baltimore. After several years there as a reporter, he wrote his first column Jan. 18, 1976. Three years later, he moved to The Sun.
"I've written more than 4,000 columns," Olesker said yesterday, as several reporters and editors stopped by his desk to shake his hand. "I am sorry to say that in the course of doing those columns, I unintentionally screwed up a handful of paragraphs. I am embarrassed by my sloppiness. But it's not like I'm looking for a Hemingway turn of phrase or I'm stealing someone's ideas. These are boilerplate paragraphs."
In a statement issued later in the evening, Franklin said Olesker's departure "saddens us all."
"He has been an important part of this institution during his long career, and his strong voice has illuminated issues vital to our readers," Franklin wrote. "However, we can't tolerate practices that imperil the integrity of this newspaper. We expect every journalist at The Sun to produce his or her own work, and to attribute information from other sources."