updated 9/24/2007 10:55:46 AM ET 2007-09-24T14:55:46

The New York Times' ombudsman says the newspaper violated its standards when it gave the liberal activist group MoveOn.org a $77,508 price break on a full-page advertisement targeting Gen. David H. Petraeus.

The organization paid $64,575, instead of the standard $142,083 for the ad questioning the war in Iraq, the newspaper's public editor, Clark Hoyt, wrote in a column published Sunday.

Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis told Hoyt that an advertising sales representative shouldn't have agreed to the discounted price. The ad seemed to disregard internal advertising standards that ban ads involving attacks of a personal nature, Hoyt wrote.

"We made a mistake," she told Hoyt.

A message left by The Associated Press with Mathis was not immediately returned Monday.

The ad was printed in the Times' Sept. 10 editions, the day that Petraeus appeared before Congress to warn against a rapid withdrawal of military forces in Iraq. The ad's headline _ "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" _ questioned his honesty and said he was "constantly at war with the facts" in giving positive assessments of the war.

"The ad infuriated conservatives, dismayed many Democrats and ignited charges that the liberal Times aided its friends at MoveOn.org with a steep discount in the price paid to publish its message," Hoyt wrote.

Hoyt said he was asked to investigate the ad rate by FreedomsWatch.org, which advocates a strong national defense and a powerful fight against terrorism, because it said it wasn't offered a similar rate.

Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org, told Hoyt his group had called three days before the ad ran and asked to place it, and was told the ad would cost $65,000.

"We paid this rate before, so we recognized it," Pariser told the Times.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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