A Note to Our Readers

3 minute read

On the evening of January 20, TIME White House correspondent Zeke Miller incorrectly reported that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. Zeke quickly issued a correction. In the hours that followed, he sent multiple emails and tweets taking responsibility for his mistake, and apologized in person, on email and on Twitter. During further conversations over the weekend, he asked a White House advisor to pass along his apology to the president as well.

The President and White House aides have cited this mistake as an example of “deliberately false reporting.” It was no such thing. We regret that the error occurred, and believe it is important to share some detail about how it happened.

Zeke was in the Oval Office on Friday night as part of the press pool on hand to document one of President Trump’s first official acts. He wrote a brief report, naming the aides who were there and noting that a bust of Winston Churchill was present in a new spot. Asked by other reporters about the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., Zeke said he had looked for it and not seen it. As a result, a pool report by another reporter sent out at 7:31 p.m., based partly on Zeke’s observations, included this: “More decorating details: Apart from the return of the Churchill bust, the MLK bust was no longer on display.”

“I should not have allowed unconfirmed information to end up in a pool report,” Zeke says. Within minutes, when inquiries began to come in about the missing bust, Zeke reviewed videos and wire photos, and tried to find a member of the White House staff who could answer whether the bust had been moved. He found an aide who went into the office to check and texted Zeke at 8:10 p.m. that the bust was there.

Two minutes later Zeke emailed a correction to a large list of White House reporters. “The MLK bust remains in the Oval Office in addition to the Churchill bust per a WH aide. It was apparently obscured by a door and an agent earlier. My sincerest apologies.” He tweeted a correction as well. A TIME story that included the error was corrected, and for the next several hours, Zeke worked to alert colleagues of the mistake. He sent out several emails to reporters and eight tweets, including, at 8:41 p.m.“Tweeting again: wh aide confirms the MLK bust is still there. I looked for it in the oval 2x & didn’t see it. My apologies to my colleagues.” At 8:46 p.m., Press Secretary Sean Spicer retweeted that message with the words “Apology accepted.” To that, Zeke replied: “This is on me, not my colleagues. I’ve been doing everything I can to fix my error. My apologies.”

“I did all I could to correct the record,” Zeke says, “and I apologize to my colleagues, the president and anyone misinformed by my mistake.”

No news organization ever wants to make an error, but we all have procedures for handling them when we do. Zeke moved quickly to correct the record, and we stand behind him for taking responsibility for the mistake. He and our other reporters will continue to cover the new Administration thoroughly, fairly and fearlessly.

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