ABC News faces blowback over corrected Flynn report
ABC News faced backlash on Friday after the network corrected a bombshell report saying that as a presidential candidate, Donald Trump pressed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russia.
The network aired a special report Friday morning shortly after Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the month before Trump took office.
Financial markets shuddered after the report, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling more than 350 points.
But the reporting that aired on television Friday morning was not included in ABC News’s written report online, prompting questions about the accuracy of the on-air story.
The network issued a “clarification” on Friday evening, saying that Trump had asked Flynn during the campaign “to find ways to repair relations with Russia and other hot spots.”
According to ABC, a Flynn confidant cited by the network clarified that it was after the election that Trump “directed Flynn to contact Russian officials on topics that included working jointly against ISIS.”
Still, the error drew scorn across the political spectrum and among journalists, who blasted ABC News for initially only issuing a clarification as opposed to an actual correction about what the confidant had said.
“Astonishing. The story moved markets, set off a media frenzy, suggested worst possible outcome,” tweeted Jim VandeHei, the CEO and co-founder of the news site Axios. “This is called a massive correction, or retraction, not clarification.”
Astonishing. The story moved markets, set off a media frenzy, suggested worst possible outcome. This is called a massive correction, or retraction, not clarification. https://t.co/uVUamf4jYY
— Jim VandeHei (@JimVandeHei) December 1, 2017
Former longtime cable news journalist Greta Van Susteren blasted other news outlets for picking up ABC News’s original report, and accused the network of trying to “sugar coat” its error by issuing a clarification instead of a correction.
“What makes it worse is that ABC won’t admit its error and now tries to sugar coat it with now calling their correction just a ‘clarification’ – (and other news organizations of course repeated ABC original story),” the former Fox News and NBC News anchor tweeted.
What makes it worse is that ABC won’t admit its error and now tries to sugar coat it with now calling their correction just a ‘clarification’ – (and other news organizations of course repeated ABC original story) https://t.co/bgZhtK40wB
— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) December 1, 2017
Trump’s former White House press secretary Sean Spicer also hit the network over its clarification, writing on Twitter that ABC News should apologize to its viewers.
“@ABC ‘news’ owes it viewers an apology. Calling false reporting a ‘clarification’ is a cop out and just another reason for the decline in trust of the media,” he said.
.@ABC “news” owes it viewers an apology. Calling false reporting a “clarification” is a cop out and just another reason for the decline in trust of the media
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) December 1, 2017
Andrew Kaczynski, a reporter for CNN’s “K-File,” echoed criticism that ABC News should have issued a correction in the first place, and called out the network for taking so long to address the matter.
“This isn’t a clarification, it’s a huge correction and one that took hours to do,” he tweeted.
This isn’t a clarification, it’s a huge correction and one that took hours to do. https://t.co/rYozu7x8Kl
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) December 1, 2017
ABC News eventually deleted its references to the fix as a “clarification,” calling it a “correction” instead.
CORRECTION of ABC News Special Report: Flynn prepared to testify that President-elect Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians *during the transition* — initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria, confidant now says. https://t.co/ewrkVZTu2K pic.twitter.com/URLiHf3uSm
— ABC News (@ABC) December 1, 2017
Flynn’s guilty plea on Friday was the most dramatic development yet in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump campaign associates’ ties to Russia during last year’s election. The news dominated headlines throughout the day, overshadowing Senate Republicans’ efforts to pass a plan overhauling the nation’s tax code.
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