The Associated Press has fired a reporter who broke a now-retracted story that claimed Russian-launched missiles had hit Poland, which would have been a major escalation of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
National security reporter James LaPorta lost his job with the news outlet after it corrected a November 15 article he co-wrote containing inaccurate information about the origin of errant missiles that killed two Polish farmers.
On November 16, the AP said it had “reported erroneously, based on information from a senior American intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity, that Russian missiles had crossed into Poland and killed two people. Subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.”
LaPorta, an investigative reporter focusing on military and national intelligence, has had his work appear in outlets like The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and Newsweek, among others.
The original story, co-written with John Leicester, cited a “senior U.S. intelligence official” who said Russia launched missiles that had hit Poland. The report instantly ignited speculation that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could turn into a more widespread war as Poland is a NATO member.
However, world leaders, including President Joe Biden and Polish President Andrzej Duda, announced that the missiles were likely not part of a Russian attack.
“There is preliminary information that contests that,” Biden told reporters while overseas when asked if the missile had been fired from Russia. “It is unlikely in the lines of the trajectory that it was fired from Russia, but we’ll see.”
Duda said it seemed “highly probable” that the missiles came from Ukraine’s air defenses and accidentally hit Poland.
While Biden and Duda urged caution, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky quickly called for NATO to act after the AP’s original report. “Terror is not limited to our national borders. Russian missiles hit Poland — NATO territory,” the former comedian claimed. “This is a Russian missile attack on collective security — a very significant escalation. We must act.”
The Associated Press did not directly respond to The Daily Beast, which first broke the story of LaPorta’s firing, but instead emphasized its editorial standards.
“The rigorous editorial standards and practices of The Associated Press are critical to AP’s mission as an independent news organization. To ensure our reporting is accurate, fair and fact-based, we abide by and enforce these standards, including around the use of anonymous sources,” the wire service said.
According to internal communications from the AP viewed by The Washington Post, there was confusion about whether the article had been approved because of its reliance on one anonymous source, which had been used in the past.
The Post added that no editors had faced discipline over the incident.