Twitter lit up on Wednesday with journalists bashing ABC News for suspending veteran correspondent David Wright over private comments he made earlier this month while being surreptitiously recorded by the right-wing group Project Veritas.
In a video released Wednesday by Project Veritas, which is infamous for its attempts to infiltrate the media through undercover operations, Wright is heard criticizing ABC News and other cable news networks over their coverage of President Donald Trump and the 2020 election cycle.
“We don’t hold [Trump] to account,” Wright says in the low-quality recording. “We also don’t give him credit for what things he does do.”
Wright made the comments to Project Veritas affiliates, who had presented themselves as documentary filmmakers and secretly recorded him, according to a source familiar with the matter. The exchange was reportedly recorded earlier this month while Wright was in New Hampshire covering the state’s primary.
Wright, who joined ABC News as a correspondent in 2000, also accused the network, which is owned by Disney, of engaging in too much self-promotion.
“You can’t watch ‘Good Morning America’ without there being a Disney princess or a Marvel Avenger appearing,” Wright is heard saying in the video. “It’s all self-promotional ... as opposed to the kind of dedication to the story and a commitment to telling stories that we need to tell that are maybe hard to tell.”
“The commercial imperative is incompatible with news,” he says later in the clip.
Asked at one point if he’s a democratic socialist — that is, a follower of the political philosophy embraced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — Wright responds that he instead considers himself a “socialist.”
“I think there should be national health insurance,” Wright says in the video. “I’m totally fine with reining in corporations. I think there are too many billionaires.”
In a statement released late Tuesday, ABC News said Wright had been suspended and that he would be “reassigned away from political coverage” when he returns to “avoid any possible appearance of bias.”
“Any action that damages our reputation for fairness and impartiality or gives the appearance of compromising it harms ABC News and the individuals involved,” the statement said.
Wright did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Project Veritas made national headlines in 2017 when it tried and failed to plant a fake story with The Washington Post about then-Senate candidate Roy Moore. The group, which is headed by conservative activist James O’Keefe, has promoted the video of Wright as part of its efforts to “expose” ABC News.
For years, Trump has attacked media outlets such as ABC News, CNN and The New York Times as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” O’Keefe’s organization has amplified such anti-press sentiments.
Journalists were quick to defend Wright, tweeting that he is entitled to voice his political beliefs in a private setting. Many slammed ABC News for capitulating to Project Veritas’ “bad faith” crusade.
“If it’s a suspendable offense for journalists to privately gripe about their media company’s news coverage of whatever, then nobody in this business would have a job,” tweeted Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce.
“Wright’s comments aren’t damning at all,” Washington Post opinion writer Radley Balko tweeted. “And the notion that journalists should never express opinions in private is absurd.”
Read more journalists’ responses below:
This suspension is patently absurd. Newsrooms continue to give in to bad faith efforts. How many times do we have to go through this before institutions learn? https://t.co/5lCraD0oTK— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) February 26, 2020
ABC's suspension of David Wright looks ridiculous now that the @JamesOKeefeIII video he got suspended for is out. Wright makes the same critiques of the broadcast news business that you'd hear in any journalism class. https://t.co/VP7y1SNw1J— Will Sommer (@willsommer) February 26, 2020
This is just so disgusting in every way. The journalist was fired for saying Disney has commercial motivations, inequality is a problem, and Trump coverage is sometimes not tough enough and at other times not fair to him? How is any of that a scandal? https://t.co/Gwklozmpg5— Lee Fang (@lhfang) February 26, 2020
it's terrible that ABC News suspended David Wright for this. a) are journalists not allowed to express a political opinion even privately? b) his comments on how TV news works are basically generic conventional wisdom https://t.co/WQXS4rmIn2— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) February 26, 2020
We all presumably got into this industry because we care about the country. ABC just suspended David Wright for that.— Emma Vigeland (@EmmaVigeland) February 26, 2020
Project Veritas caught him criticizing Disney, the media's coverage of Trump and the wealth gap. ABC sees that as unacceptable. Gross. https://t.co/kuQqo5J7bU
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.