Following the Associated Press’ firing of reporter James LaPorta over an erroneous story about a Russian missile striking Poland, questions are bubbling up concerning leaked messages that allegedly show he actually deferred judgment on the tip to higher-ups but was canned anyway.
A day after LaPorta’s investigative report almost triggered WWIII on Nov. 15, the AP issued a correction saying they “reported erroneously, based on information from a senior American intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity, that Russian missiles had crossed into Poland and killed two people.”
Hours after the report went out on the networks, national security officials including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin dismissed it as false, which forced the retraction by the AP.
LaPorta was fired on Monday. The national security reporter claims he received a tip from a single source who turned out to be incorrect about the missile.
AP has fired James LaPorta, the investigative reporter responsible for the retracted „Russian missile” story.
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) November 22, 2022
The Daily Beast was the first to report that LaPorta had been nixed by the Associated Press. It was immediately confirmed by The Washington Post. Both media outlets quoted AP sources that put all of the blame on the 35-year-old journalist.
Global news platform Semafor obtained Slack messages that tell a radically different story about the whole snafu. According to that outlet, there was internal confusion, miscommunication, and no clear procedure to verify the tip’s accuracy before the story went out.
The Associated Press is claiming there has been further disciplinary action taken but is not saying exactly what that entailed.
LaPorta is not an amateur. He has bylines with PBS, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast. He reportedly originally approached his editors with the tip on an internal Slack channel. It wasn’t just one editor either, it was several senior staffers. He told them that he was given the tip by “a senior US intelligence source” that Russian missiles had crossed into Moldova and Poland.
So AP fired the reporter who quoted an anonymous US official saying that Russia launched a missile at Poland, but continues to protect the anonymity of the US official who used to mainstream press to circulate an extremely dangerous lie? That's a bit fucked, no?
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) November 22, 2022
He protected his confidential source’s identity, describing the person as a political “official (vetted by Ron Nixon),” referring to AP’s vice president of news and investigations. The media outlet proceeded to violate its standard two-source verification rule and ran with the alert.
People who were involved in the story claim that Nixon wasn’t aware of the tip or the story. But LaPorta never claimed that Nixon knew about it, only that he had vetted the source.
Lisa Leff, one of the editors involved who is at the AP’s European desk, asked LaPorta whether they could send out the alert containing the tip’s contents or if they should wait for further confirmation from a second source.
LaPorta commented, “That call is above my pay grade.”
Which “anonymous official” told the AP that Russia launched a missile strike on Poland?
The story led Zelensky to call for NATO retaliation, which would mean world war.
We need to know who made and spread this assessment.
— Rep. Dan Bishop (@RepDanBishop) November 22, 2022
When she asked LaPorta to write the story, he told her, “I’m actually at a doctor’s appointment. What I passed along is all I know at the moment.”
Deputy European news editor Zeina Karam decided to publish the alert less than ten minutes after LaPorta’s initial message.
“A senior U.S. intelligence official says Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, killing two people,” was sent out as a newswire report to countless publications across a number of countries.
The piece was co-bylined with reporter John Leicester. He is still at the AP.
When it was discovered the tip was wrong, the AP yanked the story, replacing it with an editor’s note admitting it was incorrect and that “subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.”
It is believed that the missile veered off course due to a misfire, eventually landing on a farm in the small village of Przewodow, killing two people.
Well, it was a Russian S-300 air defense system missile, but just happened to be in Ukrainian inventory too…so perfectly understandable to be reported as ‘Russian’…esp as Russia was attacking far western & every other part of Ukraine that day
— Clare Lopez (@ClareMLopez) November 23, 2022
On Thursday morning, LaPorta was suspended according to the Daily Mail and was fired on Monday after an internal review was conducted.
When LaPorta was asked to comment, he said he would “love to” but he had “been ordered by AP not to.”
AP spokesperson Lauren Easton intimated on Monday that LaPorta’s firing was not solely because of the erroneous tip but also because of previous behavior.
“When our standards are violated, we must take the steps necessary to protect the integrity of the news report,” Easton stated. “We do not make these decisions lightly, nor are they based on isolated incidents.”
“The story did not meet our standards. We continue to look into every aspect of what happened,” she added.
LaPorta, who served in the Marines before becoming a journalist, tweeted, “I’d like to thank the multitude of journalists, editors and long-time readers that have reached out to me with words of encouragement and kindness. It sincerely means the world.”
I’d like to thank the multitude of journalists, editors and long-time readers that have reached out to me with words of encouragement and kindness. It sincerely means the world.
— James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) November 22, 2022
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