ABC News' "Good Morning America" showed a seven-minute preview Friday of an "exclusive" story on the O.J. Simpson civil trial deposition tapes, set to air the same night on ABC's "20/20." Then NBC News revealed an embarrassing truth to its broadcast rival.
NBC News was actually the first to air the tapes on "Dateline" — 16 years ago.
The ABC News story flashed the headline "never before seen videos revealed" as correspondent Elizabeth Vargas launched into her introduction by telling viewers they were about to hear some of Simpson's "chilling testimony" about his relationship with his ex-wife, Nicole, "for the first time."
"These tapes were locked away for 20 years in an underground storage facility, gathering dust," Vargas reported.
NBC was quick to pounce. It issued a tweet at 8:51 a.m. Friday, less than two hours after the ABC News report aired, calling out "20/20" and "Good Morning America" for "partying like it's 1999, referring to the year in which NBC first aired the tapes.
Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple blasted ABC's egregious error in a blog post published a couple of hours after the network was called out on Twitter for the "atrocity."
"As journalistic malpractice goes, this is a misdemeanor, though an annoying one," Wemple wrote. "News outlets — especially in the TV sector — are forever touting the thinnest exclusives, to the point that any eye-rolling media reporter learns to take a pass on harrumphing about most such atrocities."
"Yet there is an important factual matter here," Wemple added, "in that ABC News marveled before its viewers about how these tapes just managed to fade into oblivion. That was way off."
ABC News later apologized for the mistake, saying that it had only found out that same morning that NBC had aired the story more than a decade ago.
“We were wrongly under the impression these deposition tapes were exclusive and had not aired before at length. We learned this morning portions did air 15 years ago. We apologize for the mistake,” an ABC News representative told the Post.
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