Fox News has retracted and apologized for three tweets misidentifying the suspect in the massacre at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday night as a Moroccan.
Quebec authorities initially indicated on Monday that they had two suspects in custody, but soon clarified that the sole suspect in the killings was a white Canadian man. Although Fox News updated its story with that information on Monday, the network’s erroneous tweets remained online, pointing to a person identified by authorities as Mohamed el Khadir as the perpetrator. In fact, the sole suspect in the attack was 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, who was reported to be a right-wing extremist and vocal supporter of Donald Trump.
A day after Mother Jones first reported on the erroneous Fox News tweets—which collectively were retweeted thousands of times before their removal—the director of communications for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent an email to Fox News calling for a retraction and rebuking the network for allowing “false and misleading language” to continue circulating:
These tweets by Fox News dishonour the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities.
We need to remain focused on keeping our communities safe and united instead of trying to build walls and scapegoat communities. Muslims are predominantly the greatest victims of terrorist acts around the world. To paint terrorists with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims is not just ignorant — it is irresponsible.
(See the full text of the email from Trudeau’s communications director, Kate Purchase, in her timeline.)
In a statement emailed to Mother Jones, the managing director of FoxNews.com, Refet Kaplan, said: “FoxNews.com initially corrected the misreported information with a tweet and an update to the story on Monday. The earlier tweets have now been deleted. We regret the error.”
The earliest information to emerge as a mass shooting unfolds almost always contains inaccuracies, a well-known fact in newsrooms. Two of the Fox News tweets highlighting the unconfirmed identity of the shooter as a Moroccan were posted on its primary account, which has 13 million followers, and remained online for more than a day. A third tweet, posted on anchor Bret Baier’s Twitter feed for his show “Special Report,” was removed on Wednesday morning. It had circulated widely since Monday, after being retweeted by Donald Trump Jr. (See all three tweets here.)
On his show Monday night, Baier appeared to remain focused on the shooting suspect as a Moroccan—even after his own correspondent reported otherwise on the air.
“Bret, in the aftermath of this attack there was a great deal of confusion and contradictory reports,” said Fox correspondent David Lee Miller, reporting from Quebec City. “Initially it was said that there were two shooters. Now authorities are saying there was only one, and just a short time ago the suspect was brought into court. He is identified as Alexandre Bissonnette.” Miller described Bissonnette’s age and the murder charges brought against him. Then he added: “We are told he had been a student at a local university here, and that he had what are described as extreme right-wing views.”
Miller also went on to say that the mosque had previously faced anti-Muslim harassment, including reports of it being vandalized with swastikas and the delivery of a pig’s head to the building last summer.
After Miller’s reporting of all these details, Baier responded:
“And just to be clear, David Lee, one of them is Moroccan? Do we know anything more about the background?”
Miller again emphasized that el Khadir had by then been identified as a witness to the shooting, not a suspect: “The man described as the Moroccan was someone who was worshiping inside the mosque when the gunfire erupted.”
“OK, that’s a good point to make,” said Baier.
Watch the full segment here: