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US TV channel ABC suspended a veteran journalist on Wednesday after he identified as a socialist in an undercover-video sting operation staged by a right-wing website.
Correspondent David Wright was heard criticising the network’s political coverage in heavily edited footage released by Project Veritas, an activist group that uses “hidden cameras to uncover supposed liberal bias and corruption.”
Project Veritas frequently targets trade unions and campaign organisations such as the Association for Community Organisations for Reform Now (Acorn), which was forced to dissolve after losing government funding.
The conservative group also targets mainstream news organisations and journalists. It has mounted unsuccessful sting operations against the Washington Post and CNN correspondent Abbie Boudreau.
In 2015, the Trump Foundation donated $10,000 (£7,765) to Project Veritas, but the organisation has denied any formal links with the now US president.
The group has been described as “right-wing disinformation outfit” in a work on propaganda in US politics by three Havard scholars.
Mr Wright was covering the New Hampshire primary when he was covertly filmed by a Project Veritas supporter.
In the footage released on Wednesday, he is heard complaining about the network’s political coverage, saying: “I feel terrible about it. I feel that the truth suffers, the voters are poorly informed.”
The ABC reporter also said that Donald Trump is given an easy ride, adding: “We don’t hold him to account” and referring to him as “the fucking president.”
But it was the admission he was a socialist that proved too much for ABC.
On being asked whether he was a democratic socialist, he replied: “Like, more than that, I consider myself a socialist,” He admitted supporting “national-health insurance,” “reining in corporations” and narrowing the wealth gap.
Announcing his suspension, an ABC statement said: “Any action that damages our reputation for fairness and impartiality or gives the appearance of compromising it harms ABC News and the individuals involved.
“David Wright has been suspended and, to avoid any possible appearance of bias, he will be reassigned away from political coverage when he returns.”
The action against him was widely condemned, including by James Poniewozik of the New York Times, who asked: “Would ‘I consider myself a capitalist’ be a suspendable offence at any news outlet?"
Radley Balko of the Washington Post commented: “The notion that journalists should never express opinions in private is absurd...”
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