The Vice media group on Wednesday retracted two stories that alleged Disney staffers were plotting to break tradition by not allowing the robotic figure of President Donald Trump to have a speaking role in their "Hall of Presidents" attraction.
The two stories, "Here's the Secret Backstage Trump Drama at Walt Disney World's Hall of Presidents" on Monday and "Behind the Scenes of Disney's Donald Trump 'Hall of Presidents' Installation" on May 19, were published by Vice's tech blog Motherboard.
The articles cited anonymous sources to claim there was internal debate over whether Trump's animatronic figure should remain silent at the Florida park after thousands signed an online petition.
In their May 19 piece, Motherboard claimed to have spoken "via email and phone" to a source close to Walt Disney Imagineering:
"Given how polarizing the president is right now, Disney Parks & Resorts is currently trying to find [a solution] that approaches middle ground," said the source in an interview with Motherboard. "They want to include our 45th commander-in-chief in this 45-year-old theme park attraction, while at the same time, not seem to endorse or support some of Trump's more controversial policies."
However, Disney strongly denied the stories and insisted work was underway to grant Trump a speaking role.
"Despite some media reports to the contrary, President Trump will have a speaking role in The Hall of Presidents, like every president since 1993," the company said in a statement on Tuesday. "We have been working closely with the current White House — just as we have with previous administrations — and the president’s recording session has been scheduled. The attraction will re-open in late 2017."
On Wednesday, Motherboard formally retracted the stories and removed them from their website "after a thorough investigation into the sourcing...and the identification of several factual errors."
"We are conducting a full editorial review to pinpoint how this source was vetted, and how these stories were approved and published in violation of our usual editorial workflow," Motheboard's editors said in a statement. "We fell short of our standards, and regret the error."
Trump detractors, meanwhile, criticized Disney for their decision to include the president.
While others defended the company's decision — or mocked Trump's critics.
Disney CEO Bob Iger resigned from the president's advisory council earlier this month after Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord.
Iger tweeted that he had chosen to resign "as a matter of principle."
In 2015, Disney invested some $400 million in Vice, giving it control of almost one-fifth of the company.
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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