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ABC News report draws reprimand

“ABC World News Tonight” executive producer Rick Kaplan and correspondent Cokie Roberts received an official reprimand for staging a Capitol Hill news report on Jan. 26.

In a memo distributed throughout the news division, ABC News senior VP Richard C. Wald called the incident “a mistake,” adding, “Even though it had no editorial effect, the action was serious because it misled our audience.

A series of ill-considered actions resulted in the deception.”

Wald also wrote in the memo, “The people involved bear responsibility for this incident. They have been reprimanded and have expressed regrets to me. They know this is not acceptable conduct. This statement is being sent to everyone on our staff so it does not happen again.”

The incident, first reported in Sunday’s weekly Variety, occurred the day after President Clinton’s State of the Union address. Kaplan had wanted Roberts to do a live report, including crosstalk with ABC anchorman Peter Jennings, from the Hill.

But Roberts had a speaking engagement that evening and didn’t have time to make the trip across town. Kaplan then instructed her to put on her coat and do the report from the ABC News Washington bureau in front of a projection of the Capitol building, leaving viewers with the impression that she was reporting from in front of the edifice.

According to ABC News insiders, Roberts knew she had made a serious error in judgment right after the report and regretted going along with the gambit.

On Friday, Roberts and Kaplan released a statement saying that faking the background for the report was “a stupid thing to have done.”

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