NBC News is expected on tonight’s broadcast of “NBC Nightly News” to discuss the error it made Wednesday evening when it reported that one suspect in the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris was killed and two more were in custody — information that turned out to be incorrect.
Whether the evening newscast will offer a correction onscreen or explain the reporting error in depth could not be immediately determined. But a person familiar with the situation said the issue would be addressed during Brian Williams’ Thursday-evening broadcast.
On Wednesday evening, about four minutes into its broadcast, NBC News chief global correspondent Bill Neely reported the erroneous information, and anchor Brian Williams reiterated the details about six minutes later: “Just to repeat, in a short time ago we learned from senior U.S. counterterrorism officials, they are telling NBC News of these three masked men sought all day, one is dead, two in custody.” Later, other media outlets reported that one suspect had surrendered while two remained at large.
Later that evening, NBC issued a statement acknowledging the mistake: “NBC News issued an earlier report based on intelligence from two consistently reliable U.S. counterterrorism officials in different government agencies. As soon as it became evident that our sources doubted their information, we immediately updated our reporting across all platforms and continue to do so as this fast-moving story unfolds.” The network did not say its journalists made an error in reporting.
The gaffe is reminiscent of errors made by news outlets following pursuit of the killers who set off a bomb at the Boston Marathon in 2013. During coverage, CNN’s John King announced to viewers that authorities had a suspect in custody when they did not. The Associated Press also went with that story. Both had to acknowledge errors had been made when rivals began reporting facts to the contrary.