The Associated Press has fired a reporter who published false information about an explosion in Poland

James LaPorta, 35, was fired after a brief investigation, staff at the news organization confirmed to The Washington Post.

November 15 An explosion in the village of Przewoduwo in Poland, near the border with Ukraine, killed two people and caused widespread concern. Hours later, the Associated Press published a report saying that an unnamed “senior U.S. intelligence official says Russian missiles crossed the territory of NATO member Poland, killing two people.”

This information was clearly incorrect, according to The Washington Post. Polish and European Union officials later said they believed one missile fired by Ukrainian forces had veered off course and landed across the Polish border.

But the AP’s initial alert, sent to thousands of news outlets around the world, signaled a terrifying new escalation in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Poland is a member of NATO, so a Russian attack on its territory could trigger a Western military response under the provisions of this organization’s treaty on mutual self-defense. The news was quickly picked up by other news organizations.

A day later, the AP amended its article, which had quoted an unnamed U.S. official, with a clarifying note. It said the anonymous source was wrong and that subsequent reports indicated the missiles were made in Russia and were likely launched in defense of Ukraine against a Russian attack.”

Gabrielė Navickaitė/15min photo/Polish President Adrzejus Duda visits the village of Przewoduwa. Poland, November 17, 2022

LaPorta declined to comment on his firing. A former US Marine who served in Afghanistan, joined the AP in 2020. in April, having worked as a freelance reporter for several years. In the news service, he covered military affairs and national security issues.

Associated Press officials declined to identify LaPorte as the source of the alert.

Internal AP memos reviewed by The Washington Post show that there was some confusion and misunderstanding in the preparation of the false report.

LaPorta shared the US official’s opinion in an email around 1:30 p.m. eastern time. The editor immediately asked if the AP should issue a warning about his opinion, “would we need confirmation from another source and/or Poland?”.

After further discussion, a second editor said he would “vote” to publish the opinion, adding: “I can’t imagine a US intelligence official would be wrong on this.”

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