3 Major Outlets Backtrack on a Rudy Giuliani Story

'Competitive pressures' fueled the mistake, writes media reporter Paul Farhi
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2021 8:22 AM CDT
How Major News Outlets Got a Rudy Giuliani Story Wrong
In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Three major news organizations misfired on a Rudy Giuliani story last week, and media writer Paul Farhi of the Washington Post digs into what went wrong. Two big factors: "Competitive pressures" and anonymous sources. Farhi's own newspaper was the first to report the would-be scoop: The Post said the FBI briefed Giuliani in 2019, before he traveled to Ukraine, that he was being used as part of a Russian disinformation campaign to discredit then-candidate Joe Biden. Giuliani ignored the warning and went anyway, according to the piece. Soon, the New York Times and NBC News reported they had confirmed the story. Since then, all three outlets—the Post, the Times, and NBC—have published corrections to remove the assertion that Giuliani received any such warning. The story was widely disseminated (including at Newser, which has corrected its version.)

“We weren’t rigorous enough,” Times editor Dean Baquet tells Farhi. “I think we all tend to drop our guard when we get beat and are trying to catch up." He added that "we’ve all discussed it, corrected it, and we need to do better." Farhi notes that Giuliani didn't return reporters' calls when asked for comment before the stories were published, but that was probably because his devices had been confiscated in an FBI raid. Journalist Glenn Greenwald, meanwhile, has issued a scathing indictment of "corporate journalism" over the controversy. "When one large news outlet publishes a false story based on whispers from anonymous security state agents with the CIA or FBI, other news outlets quickly purport that they have 'independently confirmed' the false story," he writes. Except they're not confirming anything, just acting "as servants to the same lying security state agents who planted the original false story," he writes. (More media stories.)

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