ABC and Axios were forced to issue corrections after incorrectly describing a former Ukranian official with known animus against President Donald Trump as an advisor to Ukranian President Vlodomyrmr Zelensky.
The correction comes amid the push to impeach Trump, driven by a complaint by a person who conveyed second-hand information to Congress about a phone call between Trump and Zelensky that took place in July.
ABC’s Patrick Reevell and Lucien Bruggeman, in a story published late on Sept. 25, quoted Serhiy Leschchenko and described the former members of Ukraniane’s parliament as a current adviser to Zelensky.
Leschchenko told the outlet that Zelensky could not get a phone call with Trump unless Zelensky’s team agreed beforehand to discuss Biden.
Leschchenko, though, is not a current adviser to Zelensky, whose name is also spelled in various reports as Zelenskiy or Zelenskyy.
In its correction, ABC stated: “An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Serhiy Leshchenko as a current advisor to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Leshchenko advised Zelenskiy’s transition team following his election in April but has since been distanced by the administration. He is no longer advising Zelenskiy.”
Instead of listing Leschenko as someone “who now acts as an adviser to Zelenskiy,” the story now describes him as “a former adviser to Zelenskiy.”
The story also added: “Leshchenko on Thursday sought to backtrack his comments, telling ABC News that he did not know if officials had viewed discussing Biden as a precondition for a meeting and that he had meant it was just obvious that Trump had wanted to talk about it.”
Setting record straight: @Leshchenkos confirmed to me what those of us in Kyiv already knew—he is NOT currently an advisor to Ukraine’s Zelenskiy & wasn’t at time of July 25 call. He said he DID NOT tell ABC insistence for leaders to discuss Biden probe was precondition for call.
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) September 26, 2019
Christopher Miller of Radio Free Europe responded to ABC’s reporting, writing early Thursday: “Setting record straight: @Leshchenkos confirmed to me what those of us in Kyiv already knew—he is NOT currently an advisor to Ukraine’s Zelenskiy & wasn’t at time of July 25 call. He said he DID NOT tell ABC insistence for leaders to discuss Biden probe was precondition for call.”
Reevell took to Twitter to respond to criticism, telling Miller: ” I made a mistake in saying Leshchenko was a current advisor.” He thanked Miller and another reporter, Olesky Kuzmenko, “for keeping me straight.”
He also wrote: “IMPORTANT: The advisor in my story below, Serhiy Leshchenko, is not currently an advisor to Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy. He had advised Zelenskiy’s team but has been distanced by the administration since. This is my mistake not Serhiy’s. I apologize.”
IMPORTANT: The advisor in my story below, Serhiy Leshchenko, is not currently an advisor to Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy. He had advised Zelenskiy’s team but has been distanced by the administration since at least May. This is my mistake not Serhiy’s. #Ukraine https://t.co/kl4lrDK5Cq
— Patrick Reevell (@Reevellp) September 26, 2019
Multiple tweets from ABC News still remain live and uncorrected, including one from ABC News Politics and another from ABC News Investigates. A tweet from Bruggeman, the other reporter listed as writing the piece, still has a post with the uncorrected share line and has not issued an alert to readers about the correction.
Axios ran a story based solely on ABC’s piece and was forced to update its aggregation after ABC issued the correction.
“Editor’s note: ABC News has corrected its story to reflect that Leshchenko is no longer an adviser to Zelensky. We have updated our story accordingly,” the correction stated.
Zachary Basu, an editor at Axios who is listed on the byline for the piece, did not issue any statements on the correction. His Twitter feed is full of articles that are negative toward President Trump.