AP Fires Reporters Who Falsely Reported McAuliffe Lied to Feds
Two veteran reporters, including the dean of the Virginia press corps, have been fired by the AP after falsely reporting that Terry McAuliffe lied to federal authorities.
HuffPo’s Michael Calderone (“Associated Press Fires Journalists Over Erroneous Terry McAuliffe Report“):
The Associated Press has fired a reporter and editor over an erroneous Oct. 9 report that Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lied to an investigator in a federal fraud case, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The AP retracted the article in question roughly an hour and a half after publication, and last week, suspended its author, veteran political reporter Bob Lewis.
According to sources, Lewis has since been fired. He could not be reached for comment.
The AP has also fired Dena Potter, a Richmond-based news editor for Virginia and West Virginia. When reached by phone, Potter directed inquiries to Paul Colford, the AP’s Director of Media Relations. Colford declined to comment on personnel matters.
Another editor is expected to be reprimanded over the incident, sources say.
The firings on Monday stemmed from the AP’s erroneous reporting on McAuliffe’s relationship to Joseph A. Caramadre, a Rhode Island real estate planner charged in a federal fraud case.
Prosecutors allege that Caramadre orchestrated an investment scheme that used the identities of the terminally ill. On Oct. 9, The Providence Journal reported that McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman now running for governor, was named in court documents along with dozens more of Caramadre’s investors.
That night, the AP’s Lewis appeared to advance the story by reporting that McAuliffe had lied to federal investigators on the case. But the news organization soon retracted that claim — by far the most explosive element of the original story — after being contacted by the McAuliffe campaign.
The Washington Post reported the following day that “federal court documents do not accuse McAuliffe of wrongdoing, and it wasn’t clear whether he had made money or lost money on the investments.” McAuliffe’s campaign described the candidate as “one of of hundreds of passive investors.”
A Virginia NBC affiliate examined the error and reported that McAuliffe is referenced on two pages of the federal indictment in question as T.M. However, the T.M. the indictment references as having lied to an investigator is not McAuliffe, but a different person with the same initials.
That’s a pretty serious mistake, although the report does not explain why Lewis and company made it. Were they misled by a source? Or did they just assume that, because it was McAuliffe, it must be true? Presumably, given Lewis’ stature in particular, it was something more serious than the former.