NBC News officials deleted three sentences critical of network owner General Electric from a report that aired Thursday on the "Today" show. The report, one segment of a five-part series on the use of bogus and substandard materials in American industry, had already aired on WMAQ-TV in Chicago, the NBC-owned station that produced it. NBC affiliates in Denver, Seattle and Cleveland also showed the report without cuts. But when the report aired on "Today," these sentences -- the only reference to GE -- were omitted: "Recently, General Electric engineers discovered they had a big problem. One out of three bolts from one of their major suppliers was bad. Even more alarming, GE accepted the bad bolts without any certification of compliance for eight years." Concern about defective bolts in the airline industry was sparked by the Federal Aviation Administration's continuing investigation into the crash of United Airlines Flight 232 in July. The engine that exploded was built by GE. When reporters and producers at WMAQ watched their report on the "Today" show and realized the GE references had been cut out, "we were all outraged," one producer said. A letter of protest is being prepared. Peter Karl, the WMAQ investigative reporter who did the five-part series, said yesterday, "People here were furious. I mean, they were furious." And him? "Well certainly I was upset about it. They talked to me about it yesterday and said it had nothing do with GE." Marty Ryan, executive producer of the "Today" show, yesterday took responsibility for making the deletions. "It was one of those things," Ryan said. "I felt he didn't journalistically cover all his bases." Ryan said "an expanded spot" on the allegations about GE will "definitely" air on the "Today" show next week, and that Karl will be the reporter. Karl said neither he nor anyone else involved in preparing the report was notified in advance that deletions were to be made. "Today" show producers had questions on Wednesday "about whether I had contacted GE," Karl said. "I had -- on numbers of occasions over the past seven weeks." He was asked if he thought this was a case of corporate censorship. "I was concerned," Karl said. "On the surface, I didn't like what I saw. We can't let censorship come in in any way. I'm not saying there was corporate influence in that sense. It's just unfortunate that it happened to be GE." Ron Magers, WMAQ anchorman, said Karl had been in "a state of shock" when he told Magers about the cuts made in the report. "What I'm shocked about is, there were no questions asked by NBC about any other company named in the piece," Magers said yesterday. "They were the same nuts and bolts. We thought it was a very good story. We lawyered it. There was no problem when it aired here." "I definitely wasn't more careful because GE was involved," executive producer Ryan said. "I give you my word that that is not the case at all." As for failing to notify Karl and his colleagues of the cuts, Ryan said, "A lot of times we cut stuff down in the morning. It's not at all unusual to cut. It really is a tempest in a teapot." NBC News Vice President Tom Ross, whom Ryan says he consulted about the report before it ran, said he notified GE in advance that the story was going to air on the "Today" show. "I was not involved in the decision" to delete the three sentences, Ross said. "I was informed the story would run. I was given a script that had the GE item in it. I told GE heads up that the story was coming up the next day." Giving GE this kind of advance notice is not a case of special treatment for a corporate owner, Ross said. "We've done that for lots of people -- other companies, political figures in Washington, people like that." Ross said GE had no input into this news story or any other aired by NBC. "I just know what our policy is and how we conduct ourselves," said Ross, "and we have never never never never been under any pressure from GE with regard to coverage of news stories. And we scrupulously abide by our own objectivity, and we would never ever do that." Asked if he had heard directly from any GE representative about the story, Ryan said, "Nope. Not a word. I have no personal knowledge of GE ever pressuring anybody here about a story." NBC News President Michael Gartner was "on his way to Des Moines" yesterday, a spokeswoman said, and could not be reached for comment. Ryan said he did not consult with Gartner about his decision to trim the report. Karl, 44, said he gave GE spokesmen adequate opportunity to comment before his story aired. He has been a reporter in Chicago for 20 years, Karl said, the last seven of those at WMAQ. For his investigative work, he has received seven Emmys, two DuPont-Columbia prizes, and several other awards. "Maybe they had a legitimate concern. I don't know," Karl said of the decision to make the cuts. "But they did not talk to me. It really wasn't wise." "My view," said Magers, "is that you make a mistake when you treat your employer differently than anybody else."