The New York Times: Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S.
The Los Angeles Times: 2012 was hottest year on record for Lower 48 states
The Washington Post: 2012 hottest year on record in contiguous U.S., NOAA says
Reuters: 2012 was hottest year on record in U.S., climate agency says
The source (or climate agency) that this "Hottest Ever" story is based is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).
We now find via Anthony Watts' intensive research, the NCDC has been keeping two sets of data: one for public consumption and the other the actual stats.
"First, I should point out that I didn’t go looking for this problem, it was a serendipitous discovery that came from me looking up the month-to-month average temperature for the CONtiguous United States (CONUS) for another project which you’ll see a report on in a couple of days. What started as an oddity noted for a single month now seems clearly to be systemic over a two-year period. On the eve of what will likely be a pronouncement from NCDC on 2012 being the “hottest year ever”, and since what I found is systemic and very influential to the press and to the public, I thought I should make my findings widely known now. Everything I’ve found should be replicable independently using the links and examples I provide. I’m writing the article as a timeline of discovery.
At issue is the difference between temperature data claims in the NCDC State of the Climate reports issued monthly and at year-end and the official NCDC climate database made available to the public. Please read on for my full investigation."
Why have two sets of Data? Makes me wonder.