ABC News wants to talk to Tony Scott’s family before deciding about retraction

ABC is waiting to hear back from Tony Scott’s family or a family representative before determining whether its initial report about Scott was incorrect, a network spokesperson told Poynter.

Relying on a single source, ABC News reported Monday that Scott -- who committed suicide Sunday -- had inoperable brain cancer. That piece now redirects to a story that says Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter has since told ABC News station KABC that Scott’s family was unaware of the cancer. Many news sites picked up on ABC’s original story and are now reporting that it was incorrect.

If ABC learns from Scott's family that he didn't have inoperable brain cancer, the network will issue a retraction and conduct an internal review, the spokesperson said, noting that it's possible Scott didn't tell his family he had cancer.

“Right now, our primary focus is on the journalism and reporting out the facts for this story as it’s still developing," David Ford, director of publicity for ABC News, said by phone. "Any time that there’s something that’s misreported online or on air we do an internal review, but with regard to the specifics of this particular story, because the facts are still developing and aren’t known yet, we can’t comment on anything specific.”

Last month, ABC News incorrectly reported that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was affiliated with the tea party. ABC News President Ben Sherwood took responsibility for the mistake and said the network was taking steps to make sure that such mistakes wouldn’t happen again.

Ford declined to go into specifics, but said: “We are in the process of taking a series of steps to make sure, especially in breaking news situations, that everything is properly vetted.”

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website,, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


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