Associated Press reporter fired for false reporting on Russian attack

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The Associated Press fired its national security correspondent on Monday Missile attack misinformation A widely circulated but false news alert in Poland last week and Russia’s blame for the incident.

James Laporta, 35, was fired after a brief investigation, people at the news agency confirmed to The Washington Post.

The Nov. 15 burst on the wire, a Polish village near the border with Ukraine, killed two people and sparked global concerns. A few hours later, the Associated Press published Message alert An unnamed “senior US intelligence official says Russian missiles entered NATO member Poland, killing two people”.

That information is incorrect. Polish and EU officials later said they believed a missile fired by Ukrainian forces had strayed off course and landed on Poland’s border.

But the initial AP alert, sent to thousands of news outlets around the world, suggested a new escalation in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Poland is a NATO member, and a Russian attack on its territory could have triggered a Western military response under the treaty body’s mutual defense provisions. Other news organizations quickly relayed the news.

A day later, the AP changed its story, citing an unnamed U.S. official Correction Note. It said its anonymous source was false and that “subsequent reports showed that the missiles fired by Ukraine to defend against a Russian attack were Russian-made.”

Earlier: An anonymous source raised a false alarm about a Russian strike in Poland

LaPorta’s firing was first reported Monday evening by The Daily Beast.

LaPorta declined to comment. A former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, he joined the AP in April 2020 after several years as a freelance reporter. He covered military affairs and national security issues for the news service.

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Officials with The Associated Press declined to identify LaPorta as the source of the alert. In a statement, AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said, “The Associated Press’ rigorous editorial standards and practices are critical to AP’s mission as an independent news organization. We adhere to and implement these standards, including the use of anonymous sources, to ensure our reporting is accurate, fair and fact-based. When our standards are violated, we must take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of the news report. We do not make these decisions lightly, nor are they based on isolated incidents.

Internal AP communications seen by The Post show some confusion and misunderstanding during the preparation of the false report.

LaPorta shared the U.S. official’s tip in an email around 1:30 p.m. ET. One editor immediately asked if the AP should issue a warning in its tip, “or require another source and/or confirmation from Poland?”

After further discussion, a second author said he would “vote” to issue the warning, adding, “I can’t imagine a US intelligence official would be wrong about this.”

But a person familiar with the larger conversation surrounding the story that day at The Associated Press said LaPorta told his editors that a senior manager had already examined the source of LaPorta’s tip — a source for the story that appeared to be authorized. That editor didn’t weigh in on the missile story, even though he had signed off on previous stories using LaPorta’s source.

Easton said the agency does not anticipate any discipline for the teachers involved.

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