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ABC News suspends correspondent over erroneous report on Kobe Bryant crash

Kobe Bryant shares a laugh with his daughter, Gianna, while attending a women’s basketball game between Long Beach State and Oregon on Dec. 14, 2019.
Kobe Bryant with his daughter Gianna at a women’s basketball game between Long Beach State and Oregon on Dec. 14, 2019.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

ABC News has suspended the correspondent who speculated on-air that all four of Kobe Bryant’s daughters were on board the helicopter that crashed and killed the NBA icon and eight others on Sunday.

Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died in the accident in Calabasas. But before that was confirmed, Matt Gutman, the chief national correspondent for ABC News, said during his live report from the scene that Bryant’s other daughters were on the helicopter as well.

Gutman corrected the error in a later report and apologized for conveying the misinformation. He also acknowledged the error on his Twitter account.

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“Reporting the facts accurately is the cornerstone of our journalism,” an ABC News representative said in a statement to The Times that confirmed the suspension. “As he acknowledged on Sunday, Matt Gutman’s initial reporting was not accurate and failed to meet our editorial standards.”

The representative did not divulge the length of Gutman’s suspension. In a statement to The Times, Gutman issued another apology.

“We are in the business of holding people accountable,” Gutman said. “And I hold myself accountable for a terrible mistake, which I deeply regret. I want to personally apologize to the Bryant family for this wrenching loss and any additional anguish my report caused.”

Gutman, 42, has been an ABC News correspondent since 2008 and is based in Los Angeles. He has won journalism awards for his work on the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas and the 2018 rescue mission of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. He frequently appears on “ABC World News Tonight With David Muir” and “20/20.”

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The rush of breaking news coverage of the crash, which occurred as Bryant, his daughter and several others were traveling to a basketball game at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, has come under scrutiny. Law enforcement officials criticized website TMZ for breaking the story before all of the family members of the victims could be contacted.

Gutman is the second ABC correspondent in recent years to be suspended for an on-air mistake. In 2017, the network had to correct a story that said President Trump had directed his national security advisor Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. The latter led to the suspension of veteran investigative correspondent Brian Ross, who has since left the network.

Journalism organizations have a heightened sensitivity over errors because they can give ammunition to President Trump’s attacks on the media, which he frequently describes as “fake news.”


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