Elizabethtown newspaper fires two staffers, apologizes after misquote about 'shooting minorities'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A major mistake in a Hardin County newspaper is creating a firestorm of controversy after the sheriff was mistakenly quoted as saying "people who go into the law enforcement profession typically do it because they have a desire to shoot minorities."

In a column published Thursday night by editor Ben Sheroan, the newspaper announced two staffers had been fired due to the error.

"No reasonable excuse exists for the horrible mistake that occurred Thursday in The News-Enterprise,” Sheroan wrote.

The story, written by Anna Taylor, appeared in the Thursday, Jan. 8, edition of The News-Enterprise, with the headline, "Law enforcement to be honored for service." The article featured quotes from law enforcement officials about their jobs.

“The reporter whose name was attached to the story is not responsible for this error,” Sheroan wrote. “A function and process designed to rid the news pages of error instead added a terrible one that altered the reporter's original sentence.”

The controversial passage comes in the third paragraph of the story, in which it mistakenly quotes Hardin County Sheriff John Ward.

That statement drew an indignant response from Ward.

"There is a serious mistake in today's News Enterprise in a story by Anna Taylor that quotes me as saying, 'people that typically get into law enforcement do so to shoot minorities.'" In a response to the article on social media, Ward wrote, "I have no idea how that was printed from any interview with me. Nothing was said that even resembles that comment. This interview was conducted with another member of the Hardin County Sheriff's Office present and there was no part of the interview that mentioned any related comments. I have served in law enforcement for 30 years and have never known any officers that had these motives. There was no part of the interview that mentioned shooting any person. Let me assure you that there will be additional information forthcoming."

Ward later said the newspaper told him a staff person inserted the comment as a prank, and that it was not caught before it went to print.

"I was floored because, quite frankly, that comment is appalling to me," said Ward.

The newspaper has since issued a retraction:

"This story - as it appeared in print - contained a major error and misquoted Sheriff John Ward," wrote editor Ben Sheroan in the retraction. "The version here has been corrected. The newspaper apologizes to the sheriff and other law-enforcement officers offended by its typographical mistake."

On Thursday afternoon, Sheroan issued an additional statement, blaming the error on "a failure to follow establish[ed] production processes in our news department."

The complete statement reads as follows:

The News-Enterprise has issued a formal retraction related to an alleged statement by Sheriff Ward included in today's story titled "Law enforcement to be honored for service" and will publish it on the front page of Friday's edition. No such statement was ever made.

This error involved a failure to follow establish production processes in our news department. The newspaper's leadership staff has taken immediate actions to acknowledge the problem and to apologize both to Sheriff Ward and to all law-enforcement officers.

This statement is not in any way reflective of Sheriff Ward, the Hardin County Sheriff's Office or other law enforcement in our community.

A retraction was published online and all web versions of the story immediately were changed. An internal investigation is underway to determine how this occurred and to take appropriate actions immediately.

Marcus Ray, President of the Hardin Co. NAACP, says he's known Ward for years, and immediately knew something was wrong. He says if the mistake was the result of a prank, he's not laughing.

"People think things are funny, and they are until it gets out of hand," he said.

Ward says, so far, he's getting nothing but support.

"Been flooded with calls and emails all morning telling me that they support me," said Ward.

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