ABC News suspended veteran correspondent David Wright on February 25 after he gave reasonable criticism of the network while being secretly recorded in a video later released by Project Veritas. The organization has a well-known reputation for videotaping media figures and progressive activists and releasing bad-faith, edited videos to push a right-wing agenda.
The video, which Project Veritas released on February 26 after teasing it the night before, features Wright offering criticisms of ABC’s coverage of the Trump administration and other political issues. It has clearly been edited to portray Wright’s comments in a negative light.
In the heavily edited video, Wright was critical of the broadcast news business model and suggested that the network still hasn’t figured out how to properly cover Trump. He claimed that ABC fails to give Trump credit for things he does right while also failing to “hold him to account”; chooses more exciting, “TV-friendly” stories over practical issues that matter to voters; takes Trump’s coverage bait in a way that enables him; and overcompensates for the false accusation from groups like Project Veritas that mainstream media pull for the Democratic Party.
Wright also complained that drama surrounding Trump dominates the news cycle and the “voters are poorly informed.” He criticized ABC’s “self-promotional” relationship with Disney, saying that the network often blends news with commercial interests: “You can’t watch Good Morning America without there being a Disney princess or a Marvel Avenger appearing.”
Many of these comments are consistent with criticisms other journalists have made of political media in the age of Trump, and thus there was swift condemnation of ABC for its decision to suspend Wright.
Others were furious that Wright was suspended after he expressed support for progressive policies and said he considers himself a socialist, calling his suspension “absolutely outrageous” given a lack of progressive voices in mainstream media.
Project Veritas, founded by James O’Keefe, has a long history of secretly recording videos and then deceptively editing and releasing them in order to paint its subjects as negatively as possible and catch them in a “gotcha” moment. Veritas targets organizations that it claims have a “liberal” association, and its operatives often approach targets using a false name to coax information from them through casual conversations.
O'Keefe's goal is typically to obtain footage that can be edited in a way that embarrasses or delegitimizes targeted organizations, often seeking to expose “liberal bias” in the media. Past targets have included NPR, The New York Times, and CNN, and as a result, many news organizations are aware of Project Veritas’ motives when these videos are released.
Wright has been a journalist with ABC for nearly 20 years, covering the White House and reporting from the Middle East and Europe. His reporting has earned him an Emmy and a Peabody Award for work related to Iraq and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, respectively.
The reasonable nature of Wright’s criticisms of a business model that prioritizes generating ratings over informing viewers, combined with Project Veritas’ well-known reputation and bad-faith tactics, make ABC’s decision to suspend Wright and reassign him from political reporting to “avoid any possible appearance of bias” concerning.
Conservative media outlets like Fox News and The Federalist and figures such as Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson have already pounced on the footage to advance the right-wing narrative that ABC is a biased source that does a poor job of informing viewers -- and by suspending Wright, the network has fallen for it too.
Update (5:45 p.m.): O'Keefe and Sean Hannity agreed that ABC News should not have suspended Wright: