Absolutely Punked: AP Publishes Fake Story About GE Repaying Treasury

This is about as weak as it gets.

This morning as seen here (saved here at my web host for future reference), an unbylined 90-word Associated Press report at 9:57 a.m. told readers the following, in part:


Facing criticism over the amount of taxes it pays, General Electric announced it will repay its entire $3.2 billion tax refund to the US Treasury on April 18.

 

GE uses a series of foreign tax havens that the company says are legal and that led to an enormous refund for the 2010 tax year.

At 10:40 a.m., CNBC called BS on AP:

GE Rebuffs Tax Refund Report as 'Hoax'

 

General Electric called an earlier media report Wednesday that it would repay a $3.2 billion tax refund to the Treasury Department a "hoax."

 

Members of an activist group calling themselves the "Yes Men" claimed responsibility for the hoax, according to a report from Reuters.

 

Earlier Wednesday morning, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. conglomerate — using "a series of foreign tax havens" — would repay the "enormous" refund it received for the 2010 tax year.

 

Shares of GE, which is a minority shareholder in NBC Universal, the parent company of CNBC.com, slipped on the AP report.

 

... "It's a hoax and GE did not receive a refund," said Deirdre Latour, a GE spokeswoman.</p>

 

... "The "Yes Men" sent the release to draw attention to GE's approach to taxes, according to Andrew Boyd who described himself in a phone interview with Reuters as a member of the group."

AP's retraction, currently time-stamped at 1:35 p.m. but apparently originally published at about 10:30 a.m., now reads as follows:

The Associated Press mistakenly published a story Wednesday about General Electric Co. that was based on a fake press release.

 

The fake release said that General Electric, responding to criticism over the amount of taxes it pays, would repay a $3.2 billion tax refund for 2010 to the Treasury Department.

 

The fake release, which was emailed to the AP, included a GE logo and a link to a website designed to look like GE's website.

The idea that GE would voluntarily pay $3.2 billion in tax it apparently wasn't required to legally pay is so absurd that the legitimacy of the press release upon which the Associated Press relied -- apparently without calling or e-mailing for any kind of authentication (but that logo and fake web site sure looked OK!) -- should have been seriously questioned from the start. But it clearly wasn't.

The AP demonstrates more and more with each passing day that it is not a serious news organization and has inadequate controls to prevent false, misleading, and slanted news from being published. Its subscribing newspapers, radio outlets, and TV stations -- and the American people -- are being poorly served.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.