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New York Post Under Fire for Bogus Boston Marathon ‘Bag Men’ Story

Posted on Apr 18, 2013

The New York Post has figured out a way to make CNN’s inaccurate reporting of the Boston Marathon bombings look comparatively good. On Thursday morning, the Post published a picture of two spectators at the Boston Marathon on its cover with the headline, “BAG MEN: Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon” over it.

The problem—and it’s a very big one is—is that neither of the young men is a suspect, as CBS News senior correspondent John Miller has confirmed (see video below). Although the Post has since backtracked on the story after other media outlets pointed out the major mistake and criticized the publication, editor Col Allan defended the paper’s reporting, telling Salon, “We stand by our story. The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects.”

One of the men in the photos was identified as Salah Barhoun, a 17-year-old high school student. In a short interview with ABC News, Barhoun said he went to the police Wednesday to clear his name after he saw photos of himself circulating online as a possible suspect in the bombings. The teen described his reaction to first seeing his photo on the Post’s front page. “It’s the worst feeling that I can possibly feel,” he said. “I’m only 17.”

Worth noting is that the New York Post has already had problems with “egregious misreporting” in the wake of the Boston attack, incorrectly reporting Monday that 12 people had been killed when a pair of bombs were detonated at the marathon’s finish line, and that authorities were seeking a “Saudi man” who turned out to be a wounded student.

Gawker’s Max Read:

Were cops circulating his photo, as the Post reports? Probably, yes, they were circulating them internally, sanely, and responsibly, along with many other photos, the way police do (or should). Are or were he and his friend “persons of interest”? Sure! Maybe.

It took Redditors a few hours to find that Facebook page; it took me about ten minutes in the wake of their work. If you have even a little faith in the FBI, it’s difficult to imagine that its investigators didn’t figure out who this kid is, and how unlikely he is as a suspect, yesterday—especially after he went to authorities to clear his name.

Which means there are two possibilities: one, the Post newsroom couldn’t even be bothered to do the bare minimum of follow-up reporting—that after reporters had spoken to their sources, who gave them at best outdated information, they didn’t (or didn’t know how to) spend the ten minutes it would have taken to learn that the person in the photos had been identified already—by message board posters!—as a person who did not plant a bomb at the Boston Marathon.

Or, two, that the the Post did the followup reporting—that its reporters found out that the kid had been identified online, that he’d contacted authorities, that he’s just some poor teenager who posts “SWAG” image macros on his Facebook page—but is institutionally so committed to identifying an Arab, any Arab, as a terrorist, that it still splashed his photo on the front page and insinuated his suspect-hood.

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More from CBS on tracking down the possible suspects:


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