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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)

Obama puts it mildly. So what?

When you agree to speak off the record, that's what it means. It's not a gentleman's agreement. Without off the record comments, most important stories would never see the light of day. ABC screwed up big time on this.

Im not a big fan of all of Obama's politics but "jackass" is the appropriate word to describe Kayne West. West needs to see professional help.

Lesson: If you wouldn't say it to someone's face then you shouldn't say it.

I'm personally glad to hear that The President of the United States of America isn't so proper that he can make a comment and call someone a jackass.

Why should his comment be reported anyway? It's an off-handed remark about West who apparently IS a jackass and doesn't warrant a 'presidential' comment. The big story is how bloggers, twits and tweeters are creating the mood and landscape of what passes for news in our daily lives.

Good thing he didnt call him a liar.

Saw what's his name west,on leno last nite.Did some rap crap with some sunset blvd hooker.

What's a tweeter?

Terry Moran

Personally, I think it's friggin' awesome.

Obama has excellent percention and... and by gosh...human!

Whereas, Bush swore like a freaking monster AT all his underlings all the time - that's abusive. Obama stated it in classy simplicity what we all know to be true. Kanye was a jackass and all you Obama haters know it. If Bush said it, you would be cheering (because Kanye thinks Bush hates black people).

The president is entitled to his opinion and his opinion in this case happens to be a fact.

There are many newsworthy stories local, national, and world wide that deserve coverage; this is not one of them.

I think Terry Moran should be written Terry MORON.
Can the President NEVER be a person with feelings, emotions, thoughts??
SO WHAT if he called someone (anyone) a jackass?

Barb Abbott
Montrose, CO 81401

Why is Terry Moran still employed by the ABC Network?

I finally found something I agree with the President on and some think it was wrong.
I was glad to see this personal side...it gives an insight to his personal thoughts and not in a political setting.....West showed his true colors and our president made a candid statement of his opinion.....nothing wrong here.

"Off the record" doesn't mean much, now does it?

It is easy to see why people have such little respect for the news media today. If they had scrutinized President Bush and his cronies half as much as they have President Obama, we probably would never have invaded Iraq and Afghanistan would have been won and settled years ago. The media is not interested in the truth about important things, just gossip. I guess that is what sells and the media is controlled by the big bucks people.

Journalism is supposed to represent professionalism and integrity and non-bias. Terry Moran showed immaturity, and brazenness to crash and utilize someone else's interview information regarding John Harwood's CNBC recent interview with President Obama. Moran (ABC) twittered an off-the-record comment from Pres. Obama regarding Kanye West's recent debacle and calling West a "J___A__". If the industry standard in TV journalism is that pre-show banter is off the record, as well as Pres. Obama directly stating his comment about Kanye was off the record, then Terry Moran should be held accountable for his upsurping the interviewer, the interviewee and CNBC's interview video contents. Just because ABC staffers heard the exchange (because CNBC shares a network fiber line with ABC), doesn't mean they have the right to eavesdrop, steal/share proprietary interview information as their own to disseminate. How embarrassing for ABC. Why would ABC want to be associated with low morals, no integrity and total selfishness? Very low, low brow and my, something reeks...ABC

I agree, Obama was being honest. And calling him a jackass certainly was putting mildly! I'd personally like to hear what Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had to say, 'cause from what I hear Rahm has a mouth that (quite often lol) needs to be washed out with soap LOL

so the big man has time to watch the mtv awards...nice...good to know .After all there is way to much going on right now ,like millions of people being out of a job, war, global warming,flood victoms in the south right now, exc..exc...

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