ABC News was forced to issue a correction this week after one of its stories on the Trump-Ukraine controversy fell apart.
The story revolved around the relationship between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In a now-controversial phone call on July 25, the two leaders talked about 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who as vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid from the country unless a Ukrainian prosecutor was fired.
The prosecutor in question was investigating a company where Biden’s son, Hunter, served on the board.
The establishment media has been trying to prove Trump expected a sort of “quid pro quo” from his Ukrainian counterpart — that Trump wanted Zelensky to examine the Biden matter in return for aid and access.
In a story published Wednesday, ABC appeared to have found someone to back this up — an apparent adviser to Zelensky named Serhiy Leshchenko.
“Ukrainian officials were asking for a meeting with Trump for along (sic) time. As I remember, it was a clear fact that Trump wants to meet only if Biden case will be included,” Leshchenko told ABC.
“This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood,” he added.
There was just issue with this bombshell revelation — well, more than one, actually.
For one thing, ABC failed to note when it first published the story that Leshchenko no longer advises Zelensky. It turns out Zelensky’s administration has been trying to distance itself from Leshchenko for months.
The outlet was forced to note as much in a correction.
“An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Serhiy Leshchenko as a current advisor to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy,” the correction reads. “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”
This wasn’t the only issue.
Leshchenko later indicated he did not have any sort of insider information regarding a so-called “quid pro quo.”
“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,” Radio Free Europe’s Christopher Miller tweeted.
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. https://t.co/fNh5sMYj9i
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) September 26, 2019
“He said he DID NOT tell ABC insistence for leaders to discuss Biden probe was precondition for call,” he added.
Leshchenko told the BBC’s Jonah Fisher that the only information he knew about a “quid pro quo” was what he had learned from media reports.
Leshchenko is no longer a Zelensky adviser or Ukrainian official. Rudy Giuliani forced him out of the presidents inner circle.
I spoke to him yesterday – he said something similar re “quid pro quo” but said he’d learnt it only from media reports. https://t.co/N6rzVPjmRX
— Jonah Fisher (@JonahFisherBBC) September 26, 2019
In its story, ABC reported that “Leshchenko on Thursday sought to back track 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.”
But the damage may have already been done.
Axios picked up ABC’s “scoop” and posted it to Twitter, where it garnered almost 9,000 retweets.
JUST IN: An adviser to Ukraine’s president tells ABC News that Trump’s insistence for the two leaders to discuss a possible investigation into Joe Biden was a precondition for their now-infamous July 25 phone call. https://t.co/ah8VHMb5z5
— Axios (@axios) September 25, 2019
A follow-up “CORRECTION” tweet got just over 400 retweets.
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