The Associated Press fired a national security reporter on Monday after she gave false information about a missile attack that occurred in Poland last week, leading to a highly shared but false news alert and a story that suggested Russia was to blame Associated Press Reporter Fired Over Erroneous Story on Russian Attack.
After a brief investigation, James LaPorta, 35, was fired, the news organizations reported to The Themacforums Post.
Two individuals died in the explosion in Przewodow, a Polish village close to the Ukrainian border, on November 15, and it raised concerns throughout the world. A few hours later, the Associated Press published a news alert citing an unidentified “senior U.S. intelligence officer” who claimed that two individuals had been killed by Russian missiles that had entered NATO member Poland.
Evidently, the information was false. Later, officials from Poland and the European Union stated they thought a single missile fired by Ukrainian forces had deviated from its planned path and landed in Poland, just over the border.
However, the initial AP alert, which was distributed to tens of thousands of news organizations worldwide, indicated a grave new growth of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Because Poland is a member of NATO, a Russian invasion of its territory might have triggered a western military reaction in accordance with the organization’s obligations for mutual self-defense. The news was soon shared with other news outlets.
A day later, AP included a correction note to the report that had used the unnamed U.S. official as a source. It said that the information provided by its anonymous source was inaccurate and that “further reporting revealed that the missiles were manufactured in Russia and were most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.”
The Daily Beast broke the news of LaPorta’s termination first on Monday night.
LaPorta opted not to respond. He joined AP in April 2020 after working as a freelance journalist for a number of years. He was a former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan. For the news service, he covered military affairs and matters of national security.
The Associated Press officials chose not to name LaPorta as the source of the tip. “The stringent editorial standards and processes of the Associated Press are crucial to AP’s purpose as an independent news agency,” said AP spokesperson Lauren Easton in a statement.
We adhere to and uphold these standards, including those related to the use of anonymous sources, to make sure that our reporting is accurate, fair, and fact-based. We must take the required actions to safeguard the objectivity of the news report when our standards are violated. These choices are not hasty nor are they based on singular incidents.
The Post’s review of internal AP correspondence reveals some misunderstanding and uncertainty throughout the creation of the false piece.
Around 1:30 PM Eastern time, LaPorta sent an email with the U.S. official’s tip. An editor quickly questioned whether AP should publish an alert based on his tip or if confirmation from another source and/or Poland was required.
Further discussion led to a second editor declaring that she “would vote” in favor of issuing an alert, adding, “I can’t think a U.S. intelligence official would be wrong on this.”
LaPorta also reportedly told his editors that a senior manager had already verified the tip’s source, giving the appearance that the article’s sourcing had been approved, according to a member of the Associated Press who was aware of the larger conversations around the story that day. Although that editor had approved earlier reports that used LaPorta’s source, they had not commented on the missile story.
According to Easton, the organizations did not plan to discipline the involved editors.