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AP Kills Story Based On Fake Press Release About GE's Taxes

Thirty-five minutes after reporting that "facing criticism over the amount of taxes it pays, General Electric announced it will repay its entire $3.2 billion tax refund to the US Treasury on April 18," The Associated Press just moved this "urgent kill" bulletin:

"The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about General Electric repaying its entire $3.2 billion tax refund to the US Treasury on April 18. The story was based on a press release that GE says was a hoax."

General Electric and its tax bill has been a topic of controversy since a March 25 story in The New York Timesthat said the company earned $14.2 billion last year, but paid no federal taxes and got a $3.2 billion "tax benefit."

Last week, The Washington Postand ProPublica debunked some of the Times' report. It found that GE will not be getting a refund on its 2010 taxes and likely will have a small tax "liability" for that year, once it's done doing its 2010 return.

No news organization, including NPR, is immune from such mistakes. As we reported in March 2010, "a bogus news release that claimed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee had called on Israel 'to immediately freeze new settlement projects' led to a incorrect report on NPR's newscast this morning."

In October 2009, Reuters was duped by a fake press release that claimed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had dropped its opposition to climate change legislation.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.