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I'm obviously not asking whether the story itself is correct, I'm asking whether ABC News briefly reported it or whether it's a series of hoaxes.

I saw this alleged screenshot on Reddit just now. It has 1811 upvotes and 623 comments. However, it comes from Twitter where it's retweeted 653 times and liked 566 times.

enter image description here

The tweet reads:

So this popped up a little bit ago Um... Did I just fall down Alices' rabbit hole, or what? It vanished aft ~3 min

Some other Twitter users responded that they also saw it. One even posted a video, allegedly showing ABC News talking about the "breaking news of Hillary Clinton's death". The video is quite low quality and cuts off right after they say "death".

Infowars.com have now released a video where they are talking to someone they claim are from ABC News. This alleged ABC employee in the video confirms that it happened and says it was a mistake.

Was this actually someone from ABC News talking to Infowars?

Did ABC actually put out any of this, or is the image manipulated and the videos fake?

I have tried checking all of The Wayback Machine's snapshots of ABC News on 9/11. None of them showed it. However, since the tweet claims it was only up for a few minutes, it would actually not have been expected to have been caught by The Wayback Machine.

Are these all hoaxes, or is there some truth to any of it?

4
+25

tl;dr An anchorman did start a news show with the words "…about Hillary Clinton's death…". That seems to have been a simple one word mixup for whatever reason, broadcast live once, uncorrected. Who has talked on the phone to Infowars is irrelevant. Everything that follows in the claim is Chinese whispers or manipulation. That anchorman was not working for ABC but for WABC. The screenshots with captions about "death in hospitals" appear to be simple fakes.

There is a video online that shows the beginning of the news section that seems to have started these rumours. At least it was used as "audio-visual proof" of wrong doing at ABC:

… "Good evening everyone, I'm Sandra Bookmen, and I'm Joe Torres. We begin with the breaking news about Hillary Clinton's death. Hillary Clinton's doctor has just revealed that the presidential candidate has been diagnosed with pneumonia. And this after Clinton left the 9-11 memorial ceremony early, and was captured on video, appearing to need assistance and to struggle to stay on her feet as she was getting in to that van.” …
Transcript of Youtube video: "Hillary Clinton Death Rumor"
Info on YouTube: TruNews – Published on Sep 13, 2016
NYC News Station Accidentally Reports Hillary Clinton's Death

News anchorman Joe Torres opened the ABC affiliates 6 PM news cast with a statement which launched a thousand tweets, literally.

The above is a high quality and uninterrupted version and source of the "proof of death & censorship" video that is used to promote the rumour. The "proof"-videos are then usually quite low quality and appear to have been doctored in most versions circulating online to appear that the optical transition effect is matched with an auditory distortion simulating a cut off (aka 'censoring').

While the start of that segment is certainly misleading in talking about death and then just talking about pneumonia, the lines actually uttered in the immediately following context seem to be much more harmless overall. Removing the following words might have been done just to add effect to an anchorman talking quite casually about a campaigner's death as if the basic fact was already old news. But interpreting this effect added by rumour promoters as proof of censorship at ABC (not: WABC!) seems quite bizarre.

A UK newspaper reported that the newsman actually wanted to say something really fitting into the context as presented:

New York station WABC TV confirmed that Joe Torres had meant to say “health” instead of “death”.
A spokesman said: “It was clear from the context of the story, the reporters’ information and graphics on the screen that Secretary Clinton was alive and recovering.”
A dubious article, purportedly run by ABC News, carried the headline “Hillary Clinton reported to have died under hospital treatment at Montefiore Medical Hospital”. It added “Democrats in disagreement over procedures of renomination”.
The webpage is nowhere to be found on the ABC News website, leading to conclusions that the article was in fact a hoax.
A string of bizarre conspiracy theories have surrounded Mrs Clinton since her knees buckled and she was helped into a van at the event on September 11.
Express: Is Hillary Clinton dead? Bizarre rumours claim Clinton DIED after pneumonia collapse

That might indicate that no branch or affiliate of ABC ever put out the news that "Clinton died in hospital".

The snopes article "Hillary Clinton Death Hoax" traces the origin of the "death rumour" as follows:

On 12 September 2016, convicted felon Hal Turner’s disreputable, conspiracy-flogging web site SuperStation95 reported that New York City television station WABC had announced the death of Hillary Clinton the previous evening, after the Democratic presidential nominee left a 9/11 anniversary memorial ceremony in New York prematurely earlier in the day due to health reasons (later attributed to pneumonia).

A video clip of WABC-TV Channel 7 “Eyewitness News” in New York City opened last night with Anchorman Joe Torre saying “more on Hillary Clinton’s Death.” The opening line, however, seems edited-OUT of the video archive!

The opening line "about Hillary Clinton's death" is clearly audible in all versions. Later versions accuse the station of censorship, allegedly censoring content after the line is heard, this seems to have been used for a second level rumour mongering.

Since this was happening on WABC, a local affiliate station from ABC, the main ABC-news website might not be the best place to look for confirmation on the wayback machine. Looking instead at the Wayback captures from WABC-TV (channel 7, is the flagship station of the ABC television network, licensed to New York City) the above interpretation of a one word error during an uninterrupted live- broadcast seems to be confirmed:

enter image description here archive.org capture of WABC website reporting Clinton left the ceremony. "Breaking News Campaign: Clinton leaves 9/11 ceremony after feeling 'overheated'"

enter image description here archive.org capture of WABC website reporting rumours about health due to 'pneumonia'. On the right: "Hillary Clinton's pneumonia fuels questions about her health"

The screenshot in circulation bringing up "death in hospital" seems to have its origin not on any ABC site but on Twitter:

Shortly after the […] live broadcast, a video clip of Torres’ statement — which appeared to be captured by cell phone — began circulating on social media.

Digital Media Commentator ‘DAHBOO777’, known for his research and affinity for subjects considered ‘fringe and conspiratorial’ by mainline outlets, published a video highlighting the clip and a screen shot of an apparent ABC News.com article corresponding with Channel 7’s report.

Twitter user @Fixer_Guy, who is described in his profile as a ‘Navy Vet, Renaissance man, and constitutionalist’, uploaded the purported ABC article screenshot Monday night, which read, “Hillary Clinton reported to have died under hospital treatment at Montefiore Medical Hospital.”

TruNews: NYC News Station Accidentally Reports Hillary Clinton's Death


These findings above seem to form the kernel of truth for these rumours and theories. The other subquestions seem somewhat unanswerable: Who made the screenshot from main ABC news appear "and disappear" is less relevant. Who at Infowars talks to anyone on the phone is unknowable from the outside. We only got their word for that. The alleged ABC spokesperson might well have been genuine, just acknowledging that a one word mistake was made during a live broadcast.

  • 1
    I found this a bit confusing to read - trying to tell what the facts were amongst the opinions. Is it fair to summarise the answer is 'Yes, a newsreader misused this phrase "Hilary Clinton's death" where the phrase "Hilary Clinton's health" would have been more appropriate, but that was the entire extent of the mistake." – Oddthinking Jul 4 '18 at 2:12
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    Can we lose the "not the smartest formulation" "nice opportunity", "too many cooks", "reputable websites" editorialising? I found it genuinely distracting from understanding the truth. – Oddthinking Jul 4 '18 at 2:13
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    It's also worth noting that ABC News, a division of the national company ABC, is a different organization from WABC-TV, a local TV station affiliate which simply gets some of their content from ABC. As I understand it, the anchorman who made the gaffe, Joe Torres, works for WABC. So attributing the statement to "ABC" or "ABC News" is inaccurate in any case. – Nate Eldredge Jul 4 '18 at 5:35
  • +1. I think the edits improve it. – Oddthinking Jul 4 '18 at 13:28
-5

Infowars called ABC News in NY and they claim that Jose Torres did say that, but they don't know if he was reading it off the teleprompter or what. The producer told Infowars that they had issued a retraction.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNBRZX-f9MQ

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 8
    Hi, welcome to Skeptics! Could you add links to at least one reputable source in your answer ? It can be an article, or a video, or even a anouncement from a (verified) twitter account of a (reputable) news channel. Things like "I remember" or "I heard" are not solid enough proofs. (Also what is infowars exactly ?) – Babika Babaka Sep 13 '16 at 7:40
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    @SeriousSarah I think you're better off not knowing what Infowars is... – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Sep 13 '16 at 11:46
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    William, maybe you could include a link to the actual retractation by ABC News in your answer. @Fiksdal Is it that bad ? – Babika Babaka Sep 13 '16 at 11:51
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    @SeriousSarah Many years ago, it used to at least bring up some alternative thoughts and challenge stuff in various ways. These days it just comes off as a rampant propaganda mill of ideologically biased news and unsourced speculation. Unfortunately, it still has a very wide audience. Anyhow, if you're gonna spend time on Skeptics SE, you'll bump into Infowars sooner or later. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Sep 13 '16 at 11:57
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    Infowars belongs exclusively in the question component of Skeptics SE and has no place in the answer part. – gerrit Sep 13 '16 at 18:13

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