ABC News and CBS News are both facing a firestorm of criticism over their response to a leaked video featuring ABC anchor Amy Robach complaining that the network had spiked an interview with a prominent accuser of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Earlier this week, reports circulated that ABC had identified the employee suspected of leaking the Robach video to controversial watchdog group Project Veritas. According to the reports, ABC executives informed their counterparts at CBS, where the staffer had recently been hired, of their suspicions and the employee soon lost her job.
However, on Friday, ousted CBS staffer Ashley Bianco publicly denied that she was the leaker. At almost the exact same moment, Project Veritas published a note from the alleged “ABC insider” it claimed was behind the leak.
Bianco, a former producer on ABC’s “Good Morning America” who joined “CBS This Morning” last month, said she was fired by CBS after the network received a call from ABC informing her new boss that she once had access to the leaked video.
“I did not” leak the tape, Bianco told journalist Megyn Kelly in an interview posted on YouTube.“I’m not the whistleblower. I’m sorry to ABC, but the leaker is still inside.”
Bianco told Kelly that she doesn’t know who leaked the tape because “everyone” at ABC was aware it existed. She also insisted she had never heard of Project Veritas before this week.
“I begged, I pleaded, I didn’t know what I had done wrong,” she told Kelly. “I wasn’t even given the professional courtesy to defend myself. It was humiliating, it was devastating.”
Meanwhile, the alleged leaker — using the pseudonym “Ignotus” — began the piece published by Project Veritas by stressing, “I did not and do not seek any personal gain from this information whether it be financial or otherwise,” and expressed their desire to make the information public out of “anger, confusion and sadness.”
“I’ve walked the halls experiencing similar feelings we are all having right now,” wrote the supposed leaker, addressing ABC employees. “All of you regardless of your own personal differences in one form or another do an outstanding job. I sincerely enjoy working with each and every one of you and will continue to do so throughout our careers.”
Ignotus then addressed “those wrongfully accused,” an apparent reference to Bianco.
“It is terrible that you have been lashed out at by the company. I know some may put the burden of guilt on me, but my conscience is clear,” Ignotus wrote. “The actions of the company towards you are the result of their own and not anyone else. The public outcry, from coast to coast, of all people, creeds, and political affiliations, is clear. I have not one doubt that there will always be support for you, and you will have prosperous careers. For neither you, nor I, have done anything wrong.”
CBS News declined to comment on Bianco’s claim. ABC News did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The dual revelations sparked an avalanche of criticism over the fallout of the leaker crackdown.
The Hill’s media reporter Joe Concha called Bianco’s allegations about her firing “disturbing” and swiped other news outlets for not covering the growing controversy.
“This is absolutely an increasingly huge media story and for so many major outlets, particularly those with media teams that serve to cover this kind of story, to ignore it is patently shameful,” Concha told Fox News.
The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh accused the networks of “colluding” to fire “an innocent woman,” calling ABC and CBS “disgraceful organizations.”
“ABC had the Epstein story three years ago but killed it to protect a serial rapist pedophile and sex trafficker. Then when the scandal was exposed they tracked down a former staffer and had her fired even though she isn’t the one who leaked it. Amazing work, ABC. Truly amazing,” Walsh reacted.
NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News that Bianco “came across as believable” and that if ABC “was looking for a head to roll, they went after the wrong person.”
“It’s an example of how the liberal elites have decided that the very journalistic ethics that are extolled in journalism schools and advocacy groups are no more than empty promises,” Houck said.
Townhall.com political editor Guy Benson laid out a timeline that began with ABC News quashing “significant reporting into billionaire pedophile’s predations & possible co-conspirators,” continued with the network convincing CBS News to fire the “‘culprit,’ w/o explanation, transparency or due process,” and ending with that fired staffer being the “wrong person.”
“I’m open to another side of the story, but we haven’t heard it. Wagons seem circled,” Benson added.
While many media watchdogs have criticized ABC and CBS over the incident, CNN’s outspoken media correspondent Brian Stelter has been oddly silent.
“Stelter has not tweeted about the story and as far as we can tell, has not covered the story. He made a mention in his newsletter a few nights ago, but just linked to others that are covering the story,” TV blogger Scott Jones wrote. “Clearly this seems to be a story that is in Stelter’s wheelhouse, yet we get crickets from CNN.”
Project Veritas, whose founder, James O’Keefe, describes himself as a “guerrilla journalist,” published the footage, which included Robach saying ABC refused to air an interview she conducted with one of Epstein’s victims because the British royal family had objected.
Despite widespread criticism, ABC News downplayed the significance of the video, previously telling Fox News that Robach’s Epstein story wasn’t fit to air.
“At the time, not all of our reporting met our standards to air, but we have never stopped investigating the story. Ever since, we’ve had a team on this investigation and substantial resources dedicated to it,” an ABC News spokesperson told Fox News. “That work has led to a two-hour documentary and six-part podcast that will air in the new year.”
Fox News’ Brian Flood contributed to this report.