ABC News inaccurately reported that Tony Scott had inoperable brain cancer

ABC News | Deadline | The New York Times
Citing “a source close to him,” ABC News reported Monday that producer Tony Scott “had inoperable brain cancer,” a possible explanation for his suicide on Sunday. That report was picked up by People (“Tony Scott Had Inoperable Brain Cancer: Report“), Vanity Fair (“Tony Scott Reportedly Diagnosed with Inoperable Brain Cancer Shortly Before Suicide; Left Several Good-Bye Notes“), The Huffington Post (“Tony Scott Had Inoperable Cancer, New Report Claims“) and TMZ, among others.

The original URL, in which the word “inoperable” is misspelled, now redirects to a story headlined “Tony Scott Brain Cancer Report Appears in Doubt.” Its first sentence indicates some unwillingness to cede the point: “The family of director Tony Scott, who died Sunday after jumping off a Los Angeles bridge, was not aware Scott had cancer, Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told ABC News station KABC in Los Angeles.” The original bylines — for Anthony Castellano and Luchina Fisher — have disappeared. But then the piece takes a turn toward accountability:

ABC News was unable to reach Scott’s family to confirm the assistant chief coroner’s statement.

ABC News had reported the director of films such as “Top Gun,” “Days of Thunder” and “Crimson Tide” had inoperable brain cancer, citing a source close to Scott.

Deadline’s Nikki Finke and Mike Fleming note their outlet did not pick up the brain cancer report and then lay into ABC:

This is the third time in a month that ABC News has erroneously reported on a sensitive news story. During the Aurora movie theater shooting tragedy, ABC News first claimed the gunman was a Tea Party member which was not true. And then the shooter’s mother accused ABC News of mischaracterizing a quote from her. The issues all seem the same: ABC News is not properly vetting its reporting.

ABC News was correct, however, when it identified the shooter at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin as a “white supremacist,” another report attributed to anonymous sources.

Brian Ross speculated last month on “Good Morning America” that accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was a member of the tea party. “Good Morning America” has been fighting NBC’s “Today” show for the morning audience and winning. Since the Olympics, it has regained its new position as the No. 1 morning show.

Correction: The claim that Tony Scott had inoperable brain cancer did not air on “Good Morning America,” as we originally reported. It was published online only in an article branded “Good Morning America.”

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