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Posted on on May 22nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



from: Cynthia Padera, Media Matters for America <>

May 23, 2013


Pincas —


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.  The truth had come 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.


By representing secondhand summaries from a source as direct transcriptions of the e-mails, Karl and his team broke the rules of journalism and fundamentally misled their audience.  Other networks that had reported on the scoop, including CNN and CBS, rushed to air segments correcting their reports.  The online editors at ABC News even updated the web version of the story and appended an “Editor’s Note” addressing the sourcing issue.

Amazingly, though, ABC News has never addressed or corrected any of the inaccurate reporting on the air.  On the airwaves, the repeated claim that ABC had “exclusively obtained” the administration e-mails and the fundamentally misleading “quotes” from them still stand.  In fact, in two on-air reports covering the release of the administration e-mails that debunked the “exclusive,” Jonathan Karl erroneously claimed that those e-mails “confirm” ABC News’ original story.  It is not surprising, then, that the false reporting has stuck–according to ABC’s 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.  Its medium is television.  After a major substantive error in a flagship story, ABC owes its millions of viewers the truth.


Help us hold the media accountable.  Your participation matters.


Cynthia Padera
Campaigns Manager
Media Matters for America

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