July 3, 2017

Despite ‘Clarification,’ AP’s Trump-Russia Error Still in 3 Stories at AP Sites, Hundreds of Others

Friday afternoon, as noted in a Saturday evening NewsBusters post, the Associated Press issued a correction, which it has insisted on describing as a “clarification,” admitting that four stories published in April and June which “reported that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump” were incorrect in that assertion. Despite the “clarification,” the AP has published a subsequent story containing the same error which has stood uncorrected for three days. Beyond that, the wire service’s cleanup efforts relating to previous stories have been so weak — at least two other items with the falsehood remain at AP’s own websites, and hundreds of others are still at subscribing outlets’ sites — that it’s reasonable to question whether its interest in correcting the record is genuine.

One would think that the AP might at least have incorporated the “clarification” into still-present versions of the stories it identified, especially at its own websites. That has not happened in at least two key instances.

The first is from June 26, one of the dates the AP identified. It still has the error — and yes, it’s even at the AP’s own main national site:


That June 26 story was also still present early Monday afternoon in uncorrected form at the website of the New York Times. It was also present at hundreds of subscribing outlets’ websites. An early Monday afternoon Google News search on the exact headline above in quotes returned over 300 items. I went to the links for the first 14 results listed still containing an exact-match headline and an underlying version of the AP item. 12 of them contained the erroneous “17 intelligence agencies” contention; the remaining two did not, but only because they were edited for brevity and dropped the story’s final few paragraphs. There’s little reason to doubt that a great majority of results not reviewed still contain the error. Additionally, this search would not necessarily have surfaced every instance of the AP’s story if, as often happens, some subscribing outlets changed the AP’s supplied headline.

The presence of the June 26 story at other websites is consistent with what the Saturday NewsBusters post briefly noted, namely that still-present versions of the April 6 story, the earliest “clarification” date the AP identified, were found at AP-subscribing sites. There’s little reason to doubt that others can be found for that date, and for the story dated June 2.

There’s much more.

An AP story dated June 22, i.e., with a date other than the four identified in the wire service’s “clarification” (April 6, June 2, June 26 and June 29), contains the very same error. That story is still present at the APnews.com website, with the error seen in its third paragraph, and with President Donald Trump questioning that statement’s accuracy in its opening sentence:


Why was this story not within the reported scope of the AP’s “clarification”? Cynical readers can be forgiven for believing that it wasn’t included because it’s the one where President Trump directly confronted the accuracy of not only the “all 17 intelligence agencies” claim (obviously with good reason), but also, more fundamentally, whether Russia genuinely “meddled” in the 2016 election.

A Google News search early Monday afternoon Eastern Time on that June 22 story’s exact headline returned over 110 items. I went to the links for the first 18 results listed. 16 still carried the AP story, complete with the erroneous “17 intelligence agencies” contention. (One of the remaining two was independently revised at a subscribing outlet, while the other story was no longer present.)

It’s hard to imagine, but it gets even worse.

On the same day the AP issued its “clarification,” it published a fresh new story by Ken Thomas and Vivian Salama containing the very same error.

That story was just over a day old when Saturday’s related NewsBusters post was drafted. Now it’s three days old. It remains uncorrected at the wire service’s APnews.com site:


As is the case with the June 26 story, the June 30 dispatch has gained wide distribution. Indications at other subscribing websites are, as was seen in one example at Saturday’s NewsBusters post, that the story’s time stamp has in some instances been updated since its original appearance — but the uncorrected “17 intelligence agencies” claim remains regardless.

A Google News search on the exact title of the June 30 Thomas-Salama story early Monday afternoon returned over 110 items. A random review of 22 of those of the listings showed that all of them still contained the erroneous “17 intelligence agencies” claim. Among the sites returned in the search results carrying the story along with its erroneous claim: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the UK Daily Mail, the Miami Herald, the Seattle Times, Fortune.com (same story, different headline), the Washington Times, the New York Daily News … okay, I’ve made my point, except that I also need to add the New York Times, which, as Kristine Marsh at NewsBusters has previously noted, issued its own “17 intelligence agencies” correction on Thursday.

So there you have it. The AP’s supposedly important “clarification” appears to have gone almost nowhere, and the “17 intelligence agencies” fiction remains or has been added in an additional story at hundreds of AP and other subscribing sites:

  • While it appears that many published versions of the June 29 story have been corrected, revised, or removed, the three older stories (April 6, June 2 and June 26) remain out there at many subscribing websites and stand uncorrected.
  • A June 22 story outside the scope of the “clarification” remains at an AP website, as well as at other subscribers’ sites. It was “somehow” overlooked and stands uncorrected.
  • A fresh story published shortly after the “clarification” was issued still contains the “17 intelligence agencies” error a full three days after its initial appearance both at AP and at others’ sites.
  • As noted on Saturday, public library databases like Proquest are still littered with stories from AP, and for that matter other outlets, containing the false “17 intelligence agencies” claim.

Why did the AP even bother issuing its “clarification,” except to giver readers, subscribers, and the general public the false impression that they were or would be correcting the record. The nation’s gatekeeping wire service clearly has done next to nothing, and appears not to care how badly its stories continued to distort history.

It’s hard to understate how disgraceful — and yes, fake — all of this is.


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