A story went viral over the weekend about a children’s book written by Vice President Kamala Harris being distributed in “welcome kits” for unaccompanied migrant children in a temporary housing facility in California.
Some conservative political figures and publications ran with the story, with some even distorting it above and beyond an initial incorrect claim, prompting a fact-check and, subsequently, the resignation of the journalist who originally wrote it, The Hill reported.
NY Post reporter resigns
In a thread of tweets posted Tuesday, New York Post reporter Laura Italiano wrote, “An announcement: Today I handed in my resignation to my editors at the New York Post.”
“The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point,” she continued.
Italiano added, “It’s been a privilege to cover the City of New York for its liveliest, wittiest tabloid — a paper filled with reporters and editors I admire deeply and hold as friends. I’m sad to leave.”
The initial incorrect claim
In the New York Post article written by Italiano on April 23, it seemed to clearly imply that multiple copies of the vice president’s children’s book were included in the welcome kits given to newly arrived unaccompanied migrant children at the temporary housing facility inside the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center.
According to Washington Post fact-checkers, several conservative-leaning political figures and media outlets ran with the story. Some took the initial claim a step further and raised the possibility that the books were purchased with taxpayer funds and were being distributed by the federal government — claims that Italiano never made in her article.
The biggest issue, however, is that a review of the situation revealed that there was actually only one copy of Harris’ book, which had been obtained in a citywide voluntary donation drive. A California-based photojournalist’s picture of that single book, in conjunction with Italiano’s initial report, fueled a spiral of misinformation that has now cost Italiano her job.
The fact-checkers further noted in multiple updates that, after initially calling out the misinformation, the original article had been pulled off the internet and then later restored, this time with an altered headline and “editor’s note” added to the bottom to reflect the corrections made.
That editor’s note reads: “The original version of this article said migrant kids were getting Harris’ book in a welcome kit, but has been updated to note that only one known copy of the book was given to a child.”
Ultimately, The Post fact-checkers gave “four Pinocchios” to Italiano, the New York Post, Fox News, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, among others, for their role in perpetuating the false claim that multiple books were being handed out to migrant children.
The fact-checkers also wrote that “This is a good example of how misinformation spreads on right-wing media and gets amplified by Republican leaders.” They would wise to realize that there are ample examples of similar, if not even worse instances of the left-leaning corporate media and Democratic leaders doing the exact same thing — and they’re rarely held to account.