The Washington Post and New York Times issued major retractions on Saturday after initially reporting that Rudy Giuliani and One America News were warned by the FBI they were targets of a major Russian disinformation campaign during the 2020 presidential election season.
What did the newspapers report?
The Post reported on Thursday the FBI warned Giuliani in late 2019 "he was the target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating falsehoods intended to damage President [Joe] Biden."
The Post also reported that OAN received a similar warning.
The warning was part of an extensive effort by the bureau to alert members of Congress and at least one conservative media outlet, One America News, that they faced a risk of being used to further Russia's attempt to influence the election's outcome, said several current and former U.S. officials. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive. Giuliani received the FBI's warning while deeply involved with former president Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign and related activities in Ukraine to surface unflattering or incriminating information about the Biden family.
Meanwhile, the Times claimed Giuliani had received a "defensive briefing" in which FBI agents were "cautioning him that some of the information he was pushing on the Biden family was tainted by Russian intelligence's efforts to spread disinformation."
Giuliani flatly denied the allegations.
Giuliani's attorney, Robert Costello, told CNN, "This story is totally false according to Mayor Giuliani. He never received any such briefing."
What did the retraction say?
The Post issued a retraction acknowledging that neither Giuliani nor OAN received warnings from the FBI as the newspaper initially claimed.
At the top of the story, an editor's note reads:
Correction: An earlier version of this story, published Thursday, incorrectly reported that One America News was warned by the FBI that it was the target of a Russian influence operation. That version also said the FBI had provided a similar warning to Rudolph W. Giuliani, which he has since disputed. This version has been corrected to remove assertions that OAN and Giuliani received the warnings.
The Times, on the other hand, initially edited out their claims about Giuliani having received a warning from the FBI without including an editor's note explaining the correction.
However, the newspaper later added the following note at the bottom of its story, "An earlier version of this article misstated whether Rudolph W. Giuliani received a formal warning from the F.B.I. about Russian disinformation. Mr. Giuliani did not receive such a so-called defensive briefing."
Update: NYT has added a proper correction. https://t.co/VcddrQABl8— Oliver Darcy (@Oliver Darcy) 1619893601.0
A spokesperson for the New York Times claimed editors delayed including a correction notice because they needed to deliberate "correction language."
"We decided to update the story as quickly as possible to stop perpetuating the incorrect information while we reviewed correction language," the spokesperson said.