UPDATE 6/4: We delivered a letter with 18,000 signatures to ABC News executives, requesting that the network live up to its reputation and correct its false reporting on Benghazi.
On May 10, ABC News reported what it characterized as a major “exclusive” on the consulate attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Claiming to have “obtained” key administration e-mails, the report appeared to illustrate White House and State Department aides editing out references to terrorism in talking points for political reasons.
The story seemed to vindicate conservatives, who for months had been screaming about a cover-up. But when the e-mails in question were released to the public, they differed substantially from those ABC News “exclusively unearthed” in the scoop. Soon after, the truth came out: the reporter, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, was quoting not the actual e-mails, but rather summaries of the e-mails provided by a Republican source. Despite repeated on-air claims, ABC News had never “obtained” the e-mails, and the damning “quotes” that triggered the “exclusive” turned out to be misleading.
Help us hold the media accountable by telling ABC News to correct its report on the air. Sign our letter to top ABC News executives: Ben Sherwood, president; Kate O'Brian, senior vice president for news; and Kerry Smith, senior vice president for editorial quality.
Dear Mr. Sherwood, Ms. O'Brian, and Ms. Smith:
Over the last fifty years, ABC News has worked diligently to earn its place among the nation's most trusted news networks. The millions of Americans who tune into your broadcasts count on you to tell them the whole story. However, the recent controversy over your debunked Benghazi “exclusive” is threatening your credibility.
When the e-mails that your May 10th “exclusive” claimed to quote were released to the public, the differences exposed major flaws in your reporting. Specifically, by representing secondhand summaries from a source as direct transcriptions of the e-mails, the team involved in producing the story broke the rules of journalism and fundamentally misled your audience. Other networks that had reported on the scoop, including CNN and CBS, rushed to air segments correcting their reports. Your online editors at ABC News even updated the web version of the story and appended an “Editor's Note” addressing the sourcing issue.
Given the widespread reaction among other journalists, it is troubling that your network has never addressed or corrected any of the inaccurate reporting on the air. On the airwaves, the repeated claim that you had “exclusively obtained” the administration e-mails and the fundamentally misleading “quotes” from them still stand. In fact, in two on-air stories covering the release of the administration e-mails that debunked the “exclusive,” your reporter erroneously claimed that those e-mails “confirm” ABC News' original story. It is not surprising, then, that your false reporting has stuck -- according to your own poll, a majority of Americans now think that the Obama administration is trying to cover up the facts about Benghazi.
ABC News, above all, is a network news outlet. Your medium is television. After a major substantive error in a flagship story, ABC News owes its millions of viewers the truth.
I ask that you live up to your reputation as a respected news organization that viewers can trust. Don't let the desire to save face prevent you from acknowledging the error and correcting the facts -- it will only improve your long-term credibility. Correct your reporting on the air.
This campaign is now closed.