Ronn TorossianRonn Torossian

Fox News offers no apologies regarding its support of the military. The network frequently discusses military issues, hosts guests in the armed forces and discusses issues of importance to veterans’ families. So, it’s doubly sad that Fox was “duped” by a fake bio submitted by a U.S. vet, posting a story that the network was later forced to retract.

The story — a decorated Vietnam Veteran who was now making a living as an artist — had all the elements for a Fox News grand slam. John Garofalo, a member of the first U.S. Navy Seal team and a war hero, had created a massive bronze and glass presidential seal replica in the hopes of gifting it to President Trump. The story, published online through Fox News’ website, highlighted Garofalo’s military service, offering multiple, specific details. Turns out, though, it was all a lie, which Fox quickly apologized for spreading.

Fox News screenshot from Washington Post article

In a prepared statement, the network said:

“Unfortunately, all of Garofalo’s claims turned out to be untrue … The fact is that he did not serve in Vietnam. He was never a U.S. Navy SEAL. Even though he showed us medals, Garofalo was not awarded two Purple Hearts or any of the other nearly two dozen commendations he claimed to have received, except for the National Defense Service Medal …”

Despite admitting much of Garofalo’s military history was essentially fabricated, the network stopped short of making a retraction.

Instead, they offered a “correction” to the previously published piece: “Over the last two weeks, we’ve worked with Garofalo’s family and the National Personnel Records Center to get to the bottom of a military past that Garofalo had claimed to be covert … It is true that Garofalo is a glass artist and a veteran. He served in Spain, and he gifted two presidential seals to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush … We apologize to our viewers, especially veterans and servicemen and women …”

The change and the apology highlights an important challenge for all news networks. In the race to produce quality, unique news content almost instantly, networks struggle with ways to beat the competition to market without losing credibility. Most have been forced to pull things back, sometimes fully retracting stories that were based on false or incomplete information.

Add to that the fact that most news teams have been slimmed down by budget cuts, and the need for producers to work overtime to vet stories has dramatically increased. While no network can be perfect, each mistake is a nick in the armor of the public’s trust.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.