This post at Coyote Blog puts things in the perspective:
Anyway, I mention it here because whether his comments were "off the record" seems to be an important part of the controversy. I can't think of any ethical justification for this distinction. I can understand when comments are "private" (say with my family around my house) or "confidential" (say with my managers about what we are paying someone) or even "anonymous" (such as when a source might be blowing the whistle on their boss). What, though, does it mean if public comments in a public forum are "off the record"? ... The only other argument I can come up with is that the media tends to be so incompetent that they can seldom summarize a speaker's remarks correctly or quote them in context, and speakers know this, so they use "off the record" to protect themselves from the media's incompetence.