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Several ABC News staffers jumped the gun in tweeting Obama's 'jackass' remark [Updated]

Call it another case of being too fast on the Twitter.

The perils of dashing off observations on the microblogging site were brought into sharp relief Monday when several overeager ABC News employees -- including “Nightline” anchor Terry Moran -- rushed to tweet that President Obama had called Kanye West a “jackass" for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday.

The problem: Obama made the comment during off-the-record chatter as he was being miked for an interview with CNBC anchor John Harwood.

How exactly did ABC News get wind of it? The broadcast network’s Washington bureau shares a network fiber line with CNBC, and so ABC staffers in D.C. watching CNBC’s feed heard the exchange. What they didn’t hear, apparently, was the explicit agreement CNBC made with the White House that Obama’s chitchat was off the record.

The president weighing in on the biggest pop culture story of the day was too delicious to ignore. Soon, e-mails about Obama’s comment began circulating internally at ABC. Before news executives had determined whether the material was publishable, Moran and a handful of other ABC News staffers posted the remark on Twitter.

“Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a 'jackass' for his outburst at the VMAs when Taylor swift won,” Moran tweeted. “Now THAT’S presidential.”

The network declined to identify the other staffers who disseminated Obama's remark, but noted that they were not public figures. Nevertheless, the news was quickly picked up in the Twitterverse, where Moran has more than 1 million followers. Within an hour, Moran and the other ABC News employees who had posted Obama's comment realized their error and deleted their tweets. But by that time, the story could not be contained.

ABC News quickly called CNBC and the White House to apologize. In the news division’s 9:30 a.m. editorial meeting today, ABC News President David Westin addressed the need to follow editorial standards before sharing information on social networking sites.

“There should be a very dark, easily understood line between material that is approved, vetted and published, and material that has yet to reach that standard,” said ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider. “The message to our employees is very clear: If it’s approved and published, then people can tweet it or share it on Facebook. ... Prior to that happening, the information is not to be shared.”

“One of the lessons learned here is that when somebody who is well known to the news audience tweets something, even on a private Twitter account, it has the same impact almost as ABCNews.com publishing it,” Schneider added.

Others noted that the incident served as a reminder of another lesson: that in this age of nearly ubiquitous media, it's difficult for the president to ever truly be off the record.

For his part, a somber West apologized for his outburst, telling Jay Leno that "it was rude, period."

[Update at 11:25 a.m.: When asked today how Obama felt about his comment being reported, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton declined to comment. "Look, I'm not going to get into what the president had to say in an off-the-record conversation," he told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama flew to Ohio. "But you should see what Rahm [Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff] said about it."]

-- Matea Gold 


Comments () | Archives (61)

So what is worst? The fact that he called the guy a JackASS or the fact the Kanye actually did it and was a JackASS. I would say the latter and I would say that was the first truth I have heard from Obama in long while!

So the President called someone a jackass when he was told it was off the record. No big deal... However ABC needs to follow the protocol when being allowed to press meetings or they might be cut off... That's the real issue in my eyes.

I would say Kanye is a jackass to someone on the street but I wouldn't say it in church, in court, or to a bunch of kids. He didn't say anything wrong. However, there are times where certain comments are not appropriate. When you tell someone that there is a period of time where nothing is to be reported and then report it, that's unethical.

Not the vocabulary I expect from my president, but the sentiment is absolutely correct. Frankly, I'd welcome more efforts, on the record, by President Obama to put these faux "gangsta" boors in their place: the garbage heap.

He is a jackass. What is wrong with with the truth?
Conspiracy Theorists: The President planned it to bring the Teabaggers into his camp, then onto the DeathStar.

But Kanye was a having a jackass moment. Kudos to Obama for calling it like it is. Shame on the networks for jumping the gun, although I do think it is news worthy and worth a good laugh. It's good to know that regardless of the high profile position, Obama can break it down in plane simple english. "Jackass"

Funny thing is, for once Obama was right. West *is* a jackass. And an overpaid untalented one at that.

Punichello: Obama's true colors.

I seem to remember republicans jumping on Kanye after his Bush remarks. Get a life.

Punish ABC news because I don't believe for one minute that lie about they didn't hear. They rushed to make news at all costs and didn't care if it was on or off the record period. More lies.

One of the things I like about Obama .. He tells it like it is.

Well, he is a jackass. What's the problem?

The brilliance of technology is often dulled by the morons who use it. But it is refreshing to see one 'hoist with one's own pitard.'

That is the best thing Obama has said since being elected.

Obama finally said out loud what America as a whole was thinking.

The PETA people should protest for the rights of all jackasses, to compare west to them is unfair to all jackasses.

Good for Obama. Kanye West was a jackass.

He will forever have the distinction of being called a Jackass by the first African American president. He'll laugh and be proud of it when he is a old man.
But YES he was a Jackass wasn't he?

HAHAHA! The voice of a generation.

Kanye IS a jackass. Obama ain't no saint but spoke the truth (this time). ABC news (along with CNN, et al) should take some classes in ethical journalism. Bunch of twits and tweets and twoots! Who cares.

Sounds to me like an honest president. Some one who can call out obvious bad behavior. I like the change.

Legally, there is no such thing as off the record. I think this shows mainstream media is a little too cozy with the government they're supposed to be watch-dogging. What else do they know that's 'off the record'?

some one should call out terry moran for being unprofessional. a journalist should know better...he was not even in the room. the joke is kayne LOVES this.... more press for him and i am sure he is happy the president weighed in on his outburst.

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