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.

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Hmmm….. Getting fired from the AP for what is at FOX, a job requirement.

    (couldn’t resist)

  2. mantis says:

    The wingnuts are still repeating the claim, and will continue to do so.

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    What? Accountability? For a grave professional error? That’s not the American way. You start firing reporters for stenography, and pretty soon you won’t have a press corps left.

  4. Stonetools says:

    The assumption that Macauliffe is corrupt is a useful right wing smear, with no basis in fact. When has he either been convicted or even formally charged with corruption? That’s right, never.
    You don’t have to be a Macauliffe fan to insist that this constant insistence that Maculiffe is somehow corrupt in the absence of actual proof does no credit to the person insisting.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    Ron Fournier turned what had been the grand journalistic tradition of AP into the FOX news of print journalism. They got caught but unlike FOX they can’t just brush it off.

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I remember when the New York Times fired the reporters who claimed that John McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist. That was some good accountability back then.

    @Stonetools: interesting standard there. Yes, he’s never been charged. But isn’t it interesting how he has a history of making very, very big bucks off of companies that fall apart right after he collects his paychecks? Global Crossing, GreenTech, American Pioneer Savings Bank…

  7. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Even if your account were true( and given your history, it likely isn’t) , it is not interesting at all, in the absence of evidence of correlation. Google cum hoc, ergo propter hoc and learn some logic.Every investment banker at Goldman, Sachs has a more interesting history of profits connected with failure and I’m sure you would rush to defend the presumption of innocence in their cases.
    Hey, I can play this game too.

    1. LBJ rose to the presidency because of JFK’s assassination in Dallas, Texas.
    2.Dallas was a hotbed of right wing paranoia about JFK.
    3. LBJ was a Texan

    Innnnteresting.

    Here’s another one:

    1. Jenos Idanian is almost an anagram of Joseph Stalin.
    2.Stalin was a Marxist.
    3.Is Jenos actually a Marxist pretending to be an incompetent right wing troll???

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    .

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    Jenos is posting late today. Was he waiting for his check to arrive?

    NPR media reporter David Folkenflik writes in his forthcoming book Murdoch’s World that Fox News’ public relations staffers used an elaborate series of dummy accounts to fill the comments sections of critical blog posts with pro-Fox arguments.

    In a chapter focusing on how Fox utilized its notoriously ruthless public relations department in the mid-to-late 00’s, Folkenflik reports that Fox’s PR staffers would “post pro-Fox rants” in the comments sections of “negative and even neutral” blog posts written about the network. According to Folkenflik, the staffers used various tactics to cover their tracks, including setting up wireless broadband connections that “could not be traced back” to the network.

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/10/20/fox-news-reportedly-used-fake-commenter-account/196509

  9. I’m trying to figure out why people, on both side of aisle, are saying that Lewis et al. shouldn’t have been fired.

    The guy wrote a slanderous article accusing someone of a federal crime because he shares the same initials as someone in a court document? Not to mention, the same court documents specifically exclude “T.M.” from being McAuliffe, since McAuliffe doesn’t own a construction company that I’m aware of.

    When I was actively blogging, I couldn’t imagine doing something like that. I hedged my bets when (correctly) linking someone to statements made a decade earlier with the same first name and an uncommon last name.

    And the article gets through his editor and published without anyone contacting McAuliffe, his campaign spokesman, or his attorney for comment?

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Oh, look, Media Matters, the official smear machine of the Obama administration. I was wondering when they would have one of their shills show up.

    Please tell me you’re getting paid for your shilling, Rafer. I’d hate to think you’re doing that for free.

    @Timothy Watson: The point here is that the firing of the erring reporters is news — that it almost never happens. The major difference here is that McAuliffe is a heavily-connected Democrat, so he must be protected. When Republicans get smeared similarly — McCain’s non-affair with a lobbyist, Romney allegedly not paying taxes in ten years, and so on — it gets memory-holed once the smearing has done its work.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Oh, look, Media Matters, the official smear machine of the Obama administration. I was wondering when they would have one of their shills show up.

    *Sigh* The source is NPR reporter David Folkenflik’s book “Murdoch’s World”. MediaMatters just provided a link to the story.

  12. rudderpedals says:

    This is good, it helps undo a bit of the damage AP suffered during Fournier’s time at its DC bureau.

    If the Times can get rid of Judy Miller and AP can dump Lewis maybe there’s still hope that NBC will rid itself of it’s glaring pillow talk-conflicted Andrea Mitchell etc. That would be a minor triumph of ethics over ITB palm grease.

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Rafer Janders: Against my better judgment, I actually followed your link. The book’s source: “”four former Fox News employees.”

    But to use the standards cited above, until there’s a court ruling or some other definitive source, this is just smearing. That Media Matters believes it actually hurts its credibility.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Romney allegedly not paying taxes in ten years,

    Uh, did I miss something? Because as I recall the “smear” that Romney had not paid income taxes in ten years was never refuted as he never released his tax returns. Or do we just take his word for it nowadays?

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The burden of proof is on the accusers. The people who said that about Romney have the onus of making their case.

    Or are you admitting that the double standard exists — Democrats are innocent until proven guilty, Republicans are guilty until proven innocent? I’d actually respect you if you were…

  16. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “McCain’s non-affair with a lobbyist, Romney allegedly not paying taxes in ten years, and so on ”

    You keep harping on this McCain thing as if the story was ever proven wrong. It wasn’t. And in fact when the lobbyist sued the Times for $27 million over the story, she walked away with absolutely nothing. All your whining doesn’t change that. And the stories about Romney were actually about Harry Reid claiming Romney hadn’t paid taxes and challenging him to prove otherwise.

    And just think — you obsess constantly about how terribly biased the eeeevil media is towards Democrats, and this is the best you can come up with.

  17. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “The burden of proof is on the accusers. The people who said that about Romney have the onus of making their case. ”

    I eagerly await your proof that Obama was directly involved in a “coverup” over Benghazi or deliberately sent guns to Mexican drug lords.

  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Why bother? I don’t recall ever saying he was directly involved. Hell, I doubt he was — the guy’s built a career out of being a hands-off kind of guy. He doesn’t get his hands dirty.

    But he is responsible for both, as they happened under his supervision, and carried out on his watch, quite possibly by people he appointed. Plus, he hasn’t done a damned thing to either reveal just what happened, or punish the people responsible. So he owns them both.

    It’s part and parcel with being the guy at the top. Too bad he never had any experience in leadership and responsibility before January 20, 2009.

  19. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: In other words, on two more of your pet issues, the ones that seems to consume every second of the day you’re not writing mash notes to doughy vigilantes, you got nothing.

    You’ve been screaming Benghazi!!!!! and Fast and Furious!!! for months, and when you’re challenged there’s no substance beyond “hey, he’s the president.”

    You know, if you’re really tired of trolling you could just stop…

  20. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: You’ve been screaming Benghazi!!!!! and Fast and Furious!!! for months, and when you’re challenged there’s no substance beyond “hey, he’s the president.”

    Actually, it’s probably escaped your pea-brain, but you’ve been making a mockery of the deaths of good Americans for the past few months; I haven’t brought it up in quite some time.

  21. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “Actually, it’s probably escaped your pea-brain, but you’ve been making a mockery of the deaths of good Americans for the past few months;”

    Nope. I’ve been making a mockery of you.

    Well, you do most of the heavy lifting yourself…