Leaked internal communications from the Associated Press reveal what has led to their flawed reporting, which could have escalated an already intense global conflict.
The AP made international headlines last week when it reported that Russian missiles had entered Poland and claimed two lives, immediately stoking outrage over an alleged attack on a NATO ally.
However, the AP withdrew its report after it was revealed that Russian-made missiles fired by Ukraine to repel a Russian attack were in fact at the heart of the incident.
The blunder led to the firing of AP national security reporter James LaPorta.
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Communications received by Semafor from workplace messaging platform Slack have led critics to believe that LaPorta was not solely responsible for publishing the hoax.
“By a senior intelligence official (verified by Ron Dixon) yes, Russian missiles entered Poland. At least two people died according to initial reports,” LaPorta wrote Tuesday, referring to the AP’s vice president of news and investigations.
“Can we draw attention to this or do we need confirmation from another source and/or Poland?” AP European Desk Editor Lisa Leff asked.
“This call is above my pay grade,” LaPorta replied.
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Signing off on the coverage, AP European Deputy News Editor Zeina Karam wrote on Slack, “Yeah should be fine, I see the source has been verified by @rnixon.” The AP sent out an alert less than 10 minutes after the first message from LaPorta.
As Semafor wrote, “While Nixon had authorized the use of this specific anonymous source in the past, the people involved said, Nixon was not aware of this tip or story. LaPorta did not specifically claim that Nixon approved the source in this case. but his words were interpreted by the editors to mean he did.”
In response to Fox News’ inquiry about Semafor’s report, an AP spokesperson said, “The Associated Press’s rigorous editorial standards and practices are critical to AP’s mission as an independent news organization. To ensure our reporting is accurate, fair and factual, we adhere to and enforce these standards, including when using anonymous sources.”
“When our standards are violated, we must take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of the news report. We don’t make these decisions lightly, nor are they based on individual cases… The story didn’t live up to our standards. We continue to look into every aspect of what happened,” the spokesman added.
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According to a report published by the AP, in addition to LaPorta’s firing, “other disciplinary action was taken,” and a review of what emerged is underway, though details were withheld from the article’s author.
LaPorta did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
After his release, LaPorta tweeted, “I would like to thank the multitude of journalists, editors and longtime readers who have reached out to me with words of encouragement and kindness. It truly means the world.”
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The incident came amid a months-long war between Russia and Ukraine that began in February when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion against his neighbor. The US has provided billions in aid to Ukraine as casualties continue to mount on both sides of the war.