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John Kruzel
By John Kruzel July 25, 2018

No, ABC News did not recently ban American flag pins on TV

A misleading claim that circulated online after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been retrofitted for the Trump era.

The claim is that ABC News recently banned reporters from wearing American flag lapel pins on air in response to the current political climate.

"Yesterday the brass at ABC News issued orders forbidding reporters to wear lapel pin American flags or other patriotic insignia," reads an article on a website called Politifeed. "Their reasoning was that ABC should remain neutral about ‘causes.’ "

This story was flagged as part Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We found no credible evidence to back up the headline.

Old claim, updated for Trump era

Here’s a sliver of accuracy contained in the article: ABC News has had a longstanding policy that forbids reporters from wearing any lapel pins, according to top executives.

However, virtually everything else about the claim is wrong.

The policy applies to "any lapel pins of any sort," not just American flags, former ABC News president David Westin told CNN.

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The policy was also in place prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to Westin’s description of the policy (hat tip to our friends at Snopes for flagging the 2012 interview):

"We’d long had a policy at ABC News that we wouldn’t let people wear any lapel pins of any sort," Westin said. "The theory being that when you’re reporting the news, you should be reporting the news, not taking a position. I said quickly (after the 9/11 attacks), ‘We’re going to stick with our policy and stand by that.’ I believe to this day that was the right decision."

According to a Snopes fact-check from October 2001, ABC News was singled out because a nationally syndicated article suggested the network’s policy made it an outlier among news networks at a time of heightened patriotism.  

Thus spawned the false claim about ABC News enacting a new policy banning lapel pins in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.

Now the claim has been updated to make it appear the ABC News’ "ban" (in truth, a longstanding policy) is a response to Donald Trump’s presidency. 

The political conditions may have changed since the claim was first born, but it is still untrue.

As an aside, we’d note that the older claim that President Barack Obama sought to ban American flag pins is an extreme distortion of reality.

We rate this False.

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No, ABC News did not recently ban American flag pins on TV

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