Fox News has blamed reporting by the New York Times for allowing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to “sneak away under the coverage of darkness.” The New York Times has, in response, demanded that the news network apologize for its “malicious and inaccurate” account.
The standoff between the two news organizations began Thursday, July 21, when Fox News published a news story reporting U.S. General Tony Thomas’s remarks that Special Operations Command thought it had almost caught Baghdadi in 2015. Thomas said the team had a lead on Al-Baghdadi but it was “leaked in a prominent national newspaper” and then the lead was useless. Fox News indicated that the newspaper in question was the New York Times.
Following that assertion, the network broadcast a segment of Fox & Friends the same day that suggested that the New York Times was not sufficiently patriotic and stating “It’s not just failing in its credibility, it’s failing the country.”
The dispute has continued to be hashed out between the two organizations in public, with the New York Times publishing a news story reporting on its complaints, and both Times and Fox News PR exchanging statements in their defense.
New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha sent a letter to Fox News asking for it to apologize for the “malicious and inaccurate” segment of Fox & Friends. Rhoades Ha’s letter, which was published in a New York Times news story about the newspaper’s complaint, said the story couldn’t possibly have tipped off al-Baghdadi because it was published three weeks after the U.S. got the lead and al-Baghdadi would have known there was a raid that uncovered information about him. In addition, Rhoades Ha said the Times asked the Pentagon about its story, and it “had no objections” to the story before publication, and “no senior American official complained publicly about the story until now, more than two years later.”
Rhoades Ha also contacted the author of Fox News’ online news story, Catherine Herridge, to defend the Times‘ reporting. That online story now has been updated to include the Times‘ defense regarding its 2015 reporting on al-Baghdadi.
“Yesterday, I sent an email (that you can read here) to the executive producer of Fox & Friends Weekend and VP of programming to request an apology specifically for this segment “NY Times leak allowed ISIS leader to slip away,” which aired on Saturday, July 22.
“I sent a separate note to Catherine Herridge and her co-author yesterday asking that they update their story from Friday evening. Catherine responded and then updated the story. To be clear, we did not ask her for an apology.”
After the Times‘ complaint, Fox News aired an “update” on Fox & Friends July 24 to inform viewers the newspaper had issued a statement in defense of its reporting, which was posted on Fox News’ website. The segment is below.
(UPDATED) U.S. General: Leak let ISIS leader slip away pic.twitter.com/wNJgQqOK1b
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) July 24, 2017
Fox News PR responded to the Times complaint, arguing that the newspaper didn’t complain fast enough.
“The FoxNews.com story was already updated online yesterday and Fox & Friends provided an updated story to viewers this morning based on the FoxNews.com report,” a Fox News spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail.
“For all of their hyperventilating to the media about a correction, the New York Times didn’t reach out to anyone at Fox News until Sunday afternoon for a story that ran Friday night.”
But, the New York Times wasn’t satisfied with Fox News’ on-air statement July 24, arguing in part, “It wasn’t an apology, nor did it begin to address the larger issues with the Fox & Friends Weekend segment, one of which was sheer hypocrisy.”
To that, Fox News doubled down, stating:
“Neither FOX News’ report nor the subsequent on-air coverage was inaccurate. We find it beyond disappointing that the New York Times, in an attempt to distract from their recent debacle, decided to blame FOX News for comments made publicly by General Thomas during a widely viewed panel at the Aspen Security Forum. It might behoove the Times to actually check in with their reporter Eric Schmitt to see whether Gen. Thomas’ comments have merit and whether Schmitt’s reporting in 2015 revealed intelligence that allowed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to slip away.”