After the wire service published a false story in which a U.S. intelligence official falsely blamed a Russian missile landing in Poland for the deaths of two people, the Associated Press fired one of the reporters involved. However, internal messages obtained by Semafor show that editors played a significant role in publishing false stories.
Since Poland is a member of NATO, the news aroused a lot of concern since, if true, the explosion in Poland involving a Russian missile might have launched World War III. Despite the fact that Marine Corps veteran James LaPorta was dismissed by the A.P. for the significant error, it was revealed in his Slack communications that he did not actually write up the report since he was at a doctor’s visit and was only relaying what a source had informed him. Due to the limited character count of Slack messages, a vital misunderstanding occurred:
According to a message posted by LaPorta on an internal Slack channel at 1:32 p.m. E.T. on Tuesday, a senior U.S. intelligence source had informed him that Russian missiles had penetrated Moldova and Poland. According to LaPorta, the head was “official (vetted by Ron Nixon),” a reference to the publication’s vice president of news and investigations.
Nixon had previously given his blessing to the use of this anonymous source, but according to others concerned, he was unaware of this particular tip or tale. Although LaPorta did not explicitly state that Nixon had given his blessing to the source, the editors took his statements to suggest that Nixon had given such a blessing.
Editor on the European desk Lisa Leff queried whether or not the wire service could issue an A.P. notice without further verification.
After Leff questioned LaPorta, she said, “That call is above my pay grade.” When Zeina Karam, the European news desk’s deputy editor, heard about the alleged significant scoop, she assumed Nixon had already checked out the source and gave the all-clear. While the A.P. claimed LaPorta broke protocol by relying on a single anonymous basis, the texts demonstrate that LaPorta’s editors had a considerably more significant role in expediting the story’s dissemination.
Vanessa Gera, a journalist, went as far as writing, “I can’t think a U.S. intelligence officer would be mistaken about this.”
It was a Ukrainian air defense missile that triggered the explosion, not a Russian one.