January 24, 2017

Nancy Gibbs, the editor of Time magazine, issued an apology on Tuesday for an error that the Trump administration has repeatedly used to criticize the press in the last week.

In doing so, she pushed back against claims from the administration that the magazine made a deliberate error when reporter Zeke Miller incorrectly reported that the White House had removed a bust of civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office.

The President and White House aides have cited this mistake as an example of “deliberately false reporting.” It was no such thing. We regret that the error occurred, and believe it is important to share some detail about how it happened.

Miller, Time’s White House reporter, tweeted that the bust had been removed from the Oval Office while he reported on the Trump administration’s executive order repealing the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the bust was just obscured by a Secret Service agent and a door.

Miller quickly corrected the record, but not before the error made it into the White House pool report — a running briefing used by the press corps covering the president’s comings-and-goings. He tweeted an apology, which was accepted by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer:

Spicer cited the error during a Saturday evening briefing in which he reamed the press for adversarial coverage of the Trump administration:

“After it was pointed out that this was just plain wrong, the reporter casually reported and tweeted out and tried to claim that a Secret Service agent must have just been standing in front of it,” Spicer said. “This was irresponsible and reckless.”

Time also corrected the error in a story that appeared on its site. In her note, Gibbs made clear she stood behind Miller.

No news organization ever wants to make an error, but we all have procedures for handling them when we do. Zeke moved quickly to correct the record, and we stand behind him for taking responsibility for the mistake.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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