ABC News White House correspondent Jonathan Karl now says he regrets that some key parts of a major story he reported on May 10 were wrong.
The story sent off a political uproar. As we said last week, it made it appear that in a Sept. 14, 2012, email a top White House aide had come down on the side of the State Department to push for downplaying any terrorist connection to the attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Republicans have been accusing the Obama administration of trying to mislead the nation about the attacks during an election campaign.
Karl said on the air and online that ABC News had "obtained" the email, along with 11 others, and had "reviewed" those emails.
But a few days after Karl's story, CNN's Jake Tapper reported that the key email, written by deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, did not mention the State Department. The source who told Karl otherwise, "seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed," said Tapper, who had a copy of the email.
After Tapper's report, Karl conceded that he had only been told about the email by a source "who reviewed the original documents and shared detailed notes." The White House accused Congressional Republicans of leading Karl astray.
Now, in a statement sent to CNN's Howard Kurtz and in tweets, Karl is expressing regret — but is also insisting that his story stands up.
"Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it's become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands," Karl says in the statement to Kurtz. "I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately."
In his tweets, Karl says:
-- "In case you missed it, I sincerely regret the error I made describing an email from Ben Rhodes."
-- "I should have stated, as I did elsewhere, the reporting was based on a summary provided by a source. I apologize for the mistake."
The part of the story that Karl says still stands is that the famous "talking points" about the Benghazi attack, which U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice would rely on when she appeared on Sunday talk shows the weekend after the attack, went through multiple revisions and that the State Department was particularly concerned about not giving critics fuel to use against the administration.
Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor who writes the online PressThink blog, hasn't been buying Karl's defenses. Here's what Rosen has to say in a post about ABC News' "big Benghazi problem":
"Jon Karl has dragged the entire news division at ABC (and now George Stephanopoulos) into his self-dug pit. He got played. His colleagues at other news organizations know it. His friends at the network, were they real friends, would try to talk him out of this disastrous state of denial."