ABC Suspends Reporter For Inaccurate Statement About Deaths In Kobe's Helicopter Crash

abc news matt gutman suspended kobe report

Four days have passed since the shocking and tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other passengers on board that ill-fated helicopter. In the interim, many facts and accident-related details were revealed that hadn't been available when news outlets first jumped on reports about the crash. One such reporter who could have certainly used fast and reliable data that day was ABC News' now-suspended Matt Gutman.

On Wednesday, January 30, ABC News made the decision to suspend its Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman over the inaccuracies he voiced live on the air in the aftermath of the accident. When in the midst of reporting on the fatalities involved in the crash, Gutman erroneously stated it was believed that all four daughters of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were killed aboard the crashed helicopter. The news eventually surfaced that it was only one of their daughters, 13-year-old Gianna, was involved, while the others were nowhere near the scene.

In a later report, Matt Gutman recanted his earlier claim and apologized, and also took to social media to be up front about his hastily spread disinformation. The damage had been done, however, and after ABC News' higher-ups took the time to consider the matter, Gutman's suspension was announced on Wednesday, reported the Los Angeles Times.

No further details were given about Matt Gutman's suspension, in terms of how long it will last and what it entails. Unless ABC News offers up more info in the near future, or if Gutman himself divulges anything online, the correspondent's next on-air report may well be viewers' first indication that the suspension has lifted.

ABC News released a statement after Matt Gutman's suspension was made public:

Reporting the facts accurately is the cornerstone of our journalism. As he acknowledged on Sunday, Matt Gutman’s initial reporting was not accurate and failed to meet our editorial standards.

With his statement, Matt Gutman largely echoed those points and the ones he'd previously shared in his online and on-air apology. In his words:

We are in the business of holding people accountable. And I hold myself accountable for a terrible mistake, which I deeply regret. I want to personally apologize to the Bryant family for this wrenching loss and any additional anguish my report caused.

Matt Gutman's erroneous claim was a particularly brutal one for people to hear at a point when confirmed information was difficult to discern from the usual social media static that follows deadly tragedies like this. As well, it further affirmed the danger in announcing details to TV audiences before they've had a chance to be vetted for accuracy. It's perhaps not the worst misinformation shared by a news reporter, but that makes it no less harmful.

You can check out his apologetic tweet below.

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To be sure, Gutman hasn't been the only one taking flak for jumping the gun with reports of Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash. The tabloid mega-site TMZ was the first outlet to spread the news after the crash, and it soon took the brunt of many people's frustration – including several L.A. County police officers – for reportedly going live with its story before the authorities had the time to contact all the family members of the deceased. On Tuesday, Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo went on a Twitter tirade against TMZ and its founder Harvey Levin, calling for action to be taken against the site's controversial reporting methods.

Other reports on the deadly crash were marred for other reasons. For instance, one MSNBC reporter was called out by viewers for reportedly uttering a racial epithet during her report, though she has defended herself by saying it was a far more innocent slip of the tongue. (She combined the NBA team names of the "Lakers" and "Knicks" to get "Nakers," by her account.)

Elsewhere, on the BBC, the report on Kobe Bryant's death was coupled with footage not of the Oscar-winning basketball legend, but of current L.A. Lakers star LeBron James, who had just passed Bryant to become the NBA's third highest scorer of all time. To be expected, the organization was called out for racism and more.

Planters, meanwhile, chose to back down from its marketing campaign surrounding the death of advertising icon Mr. Peanut, with the company having dropped a ton of money on a primely timed Super Bowl ad and other lighthearted fare. However, Super Bowl fans can still expect to see the ad airing at some point, as well as a Kobe Bryant-focused tribute of some kind.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.