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Reporter behind bogus Kamala Harris story quits, makes striking claim

After the Kamala Harris book controversy collapsed, a reporter at a conservative outlet said she'd been "ordered" to write "an incorrect story."


The trouble started late last week with a report in a conservative daily newspaper. As we discussed yesterday, the New York Post told readers, "Unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach, Calif., will be given a copy of [Vice President Kamala Harris'] 2019 children's book, 'Superheroes are Everywhere,' in their welcome kits." The article ran on the front page, along with a photo of a copy of the book alongside a backpack.

The New York Post published a separate report claiming that "thousands" of copies of Harris' book were being given to the migrant children.

The story quickly ricocheted through the Republican ecosystem -- from Fox News to the RNC to Republican leaders on Capitol Hill -- which was unfortunate because the controversy wasn't real. Locals in Long Beach took up a collection for the kids, and one person donated one copy of the vice president's children's book. Whether any child actually received the book is unclear.

The "scandal" evaporated quickly, though some continued to pretend it was real, even after the story had been discredited.

By way of a follow up, there were some developments of note yesterday. The New York Post, for example, republished the story online yesterday, and the new version omits the fictional claims that appeared in the paper's original reporting.

Also yesterday, the reporter whose name appeared in the byline for the initial article parted ways with the conservative tabloid newspaper. The New York Times reported:

On Tuesday, the author of the original Post article, Laura Italiano, wrote on Twitter that she had resigned from the paper, describing the Harris article as "an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against." ... Ms. Italiano, a veteran Post journalist and longtime chronicler of the New York City courts, is a well-liked figure in the paper's newsroom. She did not respond to inquiries about her resignation or how the Harris article came to be.

I suspect her former employer will deny that Italiano was "ordered" to write a bogus article, though if the reporter's version of events is correct, it'd be interesting to learn who gave the original instructions and why.

Stepping back, the point is not to pick on one outlet for getting one story wrong. Rather, what makes this incident stand out is the larger context.

As the New York Times' report added, "The rise and collapse of the tabloid's false accusations about the vice president illustrated the speed at which political misinformation can be weaponized in the modern media environment."

Indeed, the fact that the right -- including influential conservative powerhouses -- was getting this wrong at the same time that it was also peddling nonsense about President Joe Biden banning meat reinforced the larger problem.