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22 Nov, 2022 09:57

AP fires journalist behind ‘Russian missile’ story – media

The agency sacked James LaPorta over an erroneous news alert, the Daily Beast and Washington Post reported
AP fires journalist behind ‘Russian missile’ story – media

The Associated Press has fired the journalist behind a since-retracted story, which claimed that the missile that hit Poland last week had been launched by Russia, a number of US media outlets have reported.

The news that the agency had terminated its contract with investigative reporter James LaPorta after a brief internal probe, was broken by the Daily Beast on Monday. The sacking was later confirmed to the Washington Post by “people at the news organization.”

Last Tuesday, AP issued a news alert citing “a senior US intelligence official,” who claimed that “Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, killing two people.” 

Such an event would constitute a major escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, given that Poland is a member of NATO and an attack on one member is supposed to trigger a response from the entire US-led military bloc. The story was quickly picked up by numerous other media outlets and made international headlines.

Russia denied carrying out any strikes near the Ukrainian-Polish border at the time of the incident in the village of Przewodow, while officials from Poland, the US and EU soon said there was only one missile involved and it was most likely fired by Ukraine.

AP later took LaPorta's story down and published an editor’s note admitting that the single source used in the report was incorrect and that “subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.”

AP's policy dictates that a story requires at least two independent sources to be published, with a single source only allowed when it is “an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy.” 

An unnamed AP employee told the Post that LaPorta misinformed his editors that a senior manager had already vetted his source, leaving them “with the impression that the story’s sourcing had been approved.”

AP spokesperson Lauren Easton declined to officially identify LaPorta as the author of the controversial news alert, but told the paper that when the agency’s “standards are violated,” it must act to protect its integrity and does not “make these decisions lightly.”

The 35-year-old investigative reporter had been with AP since April 2020, covering military affairs and national security issues. LaPorta is also a former US marine who served in Afghanistan, according to the Post. He declined to comment when approached by the paper.