Chief Rome correspondent Nicole Winfield, video producer Patricia Thomas and Mexico City correspondent Maria Verza teamed up to trace the elusive origin of Pope Francis’ bombshell comment on same-sex civil unions in a three-day run of stories that broke news.
After Winfield reported that Pope Francis had endorsed civil unions in a new documentary, “Francesco,” she discovered that the origin of the quote in the film was not clear. When Winfield asked the director whether he had understood at the time that the civil union comment was news, his longwinded and indirect answer was the first hint that something was off – a mystery that would lead Winfield, Thomas and Verza on a 36-hour reporting effort.
Thomas, who was covering the premiere at the Rome Film Festival, got a top papal communications aide on camera insisting that the quote didn’t come from an interview for the film, but a 2019 interview Francis granted Mexican broadcaster Televisa. After three days of contradictory claims, the reporters nailed down that the comments were made during a May 2019 Televisa interview that was never broadcast in its entirety. Verza pressed and elicited a sourced confirmation that the Vatican had cut the quote out of the raw interview footage it provided to Televisa.
AP’s story with the information from Mexico moved three hours before major newspapers reported the story. The Vatican, meanwhile, has refused all comment.