ABC News apologized Monday for mistakenly running a video that apparently was taken at a gun range in Kentucky with a report about Turkish attacks in northern Syria.
“We’ve taken down video that aired on ‘World News Tonight Sunday’ and ‘Good Morning America’ this morning that appeared to be from the Syrian border immediately after questions were raised about its accuracy,” the network said in a statement on Monday. “ABC News regrets the error.”
A representative for ABC News declined to comment on how the mix-up had happened.
The clip that accompanied the reports on the bombings showed explosions and smoke dominating the dark horizon. Tom Llamas, an anchor with ABC News’s “World News Tonight” spoke over the footage, which someone reposted on YouTube. “This video, right here, appearing to show Turkey’s military bombing Kurd civilians in a Syrian border town,” Mr. Llamas said.
An employee who answered the phone at the gun range on Monday but would not give his name, said that he was not sure who had shot the video. But he said he recognized it as having been taken at the facility.
News organizations have various systems for vetting footage to verify authenticity. Claire Wardle, executive director of First Draft, an organization that fights online disinformation, said that this sort of situation should be “relatively easy” to avoid by using tools like reverse-image search.
“ABC has a really good team that does this work,” she wrote via email. “But I assume that on a Sunday, when they were probably stretched for staff, they failed to do the necessary verification checks, and under the pressure that comes with breaking news, this got through.”
It was hardly the first time that an incorrect image or video clip had made its way into a news report. Such errors risk undermining coverage that has been properly sourced.
A number of right-leaning social media accounts and news outlets, like The Washington Examiner, wrote that the incorrectly sourced clip raised broader questions about the trustworthiness of coverage.
President Trump also weighed in, on Twitter:
ABC’s mistake came one week after President Trump vowed to clear the way for a Turkish military operation in northern Syria, leaving America’s longtime Kurdish allies feeling betrayed and unleashing chaos.
On Wednesday Turkey launched a ground and air assault along the border, killing more than 20 Kurdish fighters and forcing civilians to flee. In a joint statement on Monday, 28 European ministers condemned Turkey’s military action, stating that it “undermines the stability and the security of the whole region, resulting in more civilians suffering and further displacement and severely hindering access to humanitarian assistance.”