Another Black Eye: ABC Suspends Gutman Over False Claim About Kobe Bryant Crash

January 29th, 2020 6:27 PM

Early Wednesday evening, ABC News announced that chief national correspondent Matt Gutman would be suspended an undisclosed period of time for falsely stating during a Sunday afternoon ABC News Special Report that all four of the late Kobe Bryant’s daughters were on the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, California, killing all nine passengers.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Stephen Battaglio broke the news in his story “ABC News suspends correspondent over erroneous report on Kobe Bryant crash,” stating in the lede: “ABC News has suspended the correspondent who speculated on-air that all four of Kobe Bryant’s daughters were on board the helicopter that crashed and killed the NBA icon and eight others on Sunday.”

However, the facts clearly bore out that “Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died in the accident in Calabasas” but none of Gianna’s siblings were even aboard.



Battaglio noted that Gutman first offered an apology on Sunday night in which he said (alongside him providing an on-air correction): “Today I inaccurately reported it was believed that four of Kobe Bryant’s children were on board that flight. That is incorrect. I apologize to Kobe’s family, friends and our viewers.”

In a statement to The Times announcing his suspension, Gutman declared in part that “[w]e are in the business of holding people accountable” so “I hold myself accountable for a terrible mistake, which I deeply regret.”

As for ABC, they told Battaglio:

“Reporting the facts accurately is the cornerstone of our journalism,” an ABC News representative said in a statement to the Times that confirmed the suspension. “As he acknowledged on Sunday, Matt Gutman’s initial reporting was not accurate and failed to meet our editorial standards.”

The representative did not divulge the length of Gutman’s suspension.

Battaglio gave a brief summation of Gutman’s 12-year career at ABC before concluding with perhaps the most important takeaway, which was that Gutman joins now-former correspondent Brian Ross in being suspended by ABC and a hilarious dig at President Trump (click “expand”):

Gutman is the second ABC correspondent in recent years to be suspended for an on-air mistake. In 2017, the network had to correct a story that said President Trump had directed his national security adviser Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. The latter led to the suspension of veteran investigative correspondent Brian Ross, who has since left the network.

Journalism organizations have a heightened sensitivity over errors as they can give ammunition to President Trump’s frequent attacks on the media, which he freqently [sic] describes as “fake news.”

Ah, yes. So journalists “have a heightened sensitivity over errors” because of Trump? 

Give me a break.