New Delhi: A long-time reporter of the New York Post, Laura Italiano, quit her job Wednesday after she was allegedly forced to write a false story on US Vice-President Kamala Harris.
The newspaper, a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, had published a front-page story Sunday, which Italiano said she was “ordered” to write, on how undocumented minors were being allowed to enter the US and were being welcomed with Harris’ children’s book ‘Superheroes Are Everywhere’.
The reporter, who has been associated with NY Post since the 1990s, announced her decision to quit on Twitter. “The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point,” said Italiano.
The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point.
— Laura Italiano (@Italiano_Laura) April 27, 2021
“It’s been a privilege to cover the City of New York for its liveliest, wittiest tabloid — a paper filled with reporters and editors I admire deeply and hold as friends. I’m sad to leave,” she added.
The original article has since been taken down and corrected versions have been posted on the website of the tabloid.
In the original article, headlined ‘Kam on in’, Italiano had written that “unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach,” were given a copy of the book ‘Superheroes are Everywhere’ in “welcome kits”.
A follow-up story in the newspaper, by another reporter, claimed that “thousands” of copies of the book were being handed out to these undocumented minors and that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had “no answers” to give on the matter.
However, a fact-check by Washington Post, revealed that the entire story was false.
Italiano had attributed the story to a Reuters photograph where a migrant child was seen with a copy of the book. However, it was not part of a welcome kit and is likely to have been part of donations by residents of Long Beach, according to officials in California.
A city spokeswoman clarified to Washington Post that no government funds were used to purchase the items donated.
Soon after the fact-check, the stories were removed from the NY Post website and edited versions were posted some time later. The original headline of the digital story, ‘Kamala isn’t at the southern border — but migrant kids are getting Veep’s book’, was rewritten as ‘Kamala isn’t at the southern border — but at least one migrant kid got Veep’s book’.
In its editor’s note, the newspaper said: “Editor’s note: The original version of this article said migrant kids were getting Harris’ book in a welcome kit, but has been updated to note that only one known copy of the book was given to a child”.
However, before the story was edited, it went viral and was quoted by several Republican politicians who criticised Harris for using taxpayers’ money for the project.
In late March, US President Joe Biden had said that he had asked Vice-President Harris to lead the efforts of his government to stem migration at the US-Mexico border.