PASADENA, Calif. – In another instance of a news organization jumping ahead of a fast-moving story, NBC News erroneously reported the capture of two suspects and the killing of another in the attack on a French newspaper office and has been forced to issue a correction.
A night after NBC's flagship "Nightly News" made the error, anchor Brian Williams on Thursday explained that the network relied on two senior U.S. intelligence officials for the information. There had been no confirmation from French officials on the story, which was reported by Pete Williams and delivered on the air by Bill Neely.
"While these sources had been reliable in our previous reporting, the intel they passed along to us last night turned out not to be correct," Brian Williams said on the air.
Following the initial report at 6:35 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Pete Williams stayed in contact with his sources, and when doubt emerged, NBC News began hedging. By the third of six separate "Nightly" feeds, sent at 7:30 p.m. EST, Williams said there were contradictory reports. By the time he appeared on Rachel Maddow's 9 p.m. EST show on MSNBC, Williams explained that his earlier report could not be confirmed.
"The best information we have tonight is that two are still on the loose," he said.
The circumstances were reminiscent of the 2013 manhunt for suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, when several news organizations erroneously reported that a suspect had been arrested, two days before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody.
It's the latest of a run of embarrassing episodes for NBC News over the past few months, including the brief shelving of medical reporter Nancy Snyderman for violating a quarantine period for Ebola exposure and the firing of an executive overseeing the "Today" show after only two months on the job.
NBC is controlled by Comcast Corp.