New York Post: Hey, Maybe These Dark-Skinned Guys Are The Bombers

As I’ve noted previously this week, the New York Post’s coverage of the attack in Boston has been particularly egregious from a journalistic point of view. On the very first day, they erroneously reported  the numbers of dead and the supposed fact that authorities had a Saudi national “in custody” at a local hospital. Both of these reports ended up being untrue. Today, they used their frontpage the broadcast the the world photographs that they basically said may be photos of two men that the FBI is looking for:

On Monday, the New York Post doggedly stuck to its claim that 12 were killed in the Boston Marathon bombings. On Tuesday, CNN (among others) reported that a suspect had been arrested, before walking that all the way back. Today, the Post wrests back the “what the fuck are you doing?” crown by putting two “potential suspects” on the cover of the newspaper. They are most assuredly innocent.

The pair show up in multiple photos of the finish line. They carry large bags. They are dark-skinned. This was enough for internet sleuths to peg them as suspicious. (They show up here, in Gawker’s rundown of “suspects” identified by crowdsourcing on Reddit and 4chan.) And that was apparently enough for the Post to run with its front-page story today, claiming investigators are circulating photos of the two. (The photo on the paper’s cover is a cropped and zoomed-in version of the one taken by Ben Levine, which appeared on Deadspin on Tuesday.)

But maybe there was a reason for them to be at the marathon, wearing track jackets and carrying bags: they’re runners.

One of the men, who is actually a teenager, actually came forward today to clear his name:

The teenage boy authorities once investigated as possibly being connected to the Boston Marathon bombing told ABC News today he was shocked to see his face pop up on television and all over social media.

Salah Barhoun, 17, said he went to the police yesterday to clear his name after he found himself tagged in pictures online. He had just gone to watch the race, he said, but soon after the explosions, he was singled out by internet sleuths as looking suspicious. Federal authorities passed around images of Barhoun, attempting to learn more information about him, sources told ABC News.

Today The New York Post ran a story featuring a picture of Barhoun and another man circled in red, but said it was unclear if they were the same as two potential suspects spotted by law enforcement Wednesday.

When he saw the front page story, with the headline “Bag Men,” Barhoun said, “It’s the worst feeling that I can possibly feel… I’m only 17.”

In essence, this all started with an informal, and not authorized by law enforcement, effort by people on Reddit and 4Chan to examine photographs of the scene of the attacks to see if they could identify possible suspects on their own. For days, both sites were filled with image enhanced photos that clearly identified people and theories about what they might be up to. On many levels, it’s an irresponsible action because the danger of vigilante action in a situation like this is quite high, as are the odds that the “suspect” identified may be entirely innocent.

But, that’s Reddit and 4Chan. When those pictures go from a social media site to the front page of a New York City tabloid it becomes an entirely different story. It was not only irresponsible, but without a shred of journalistic integrity, for the Post to public those photos without having any idea of whether or not they were pointing the picture at a possible suspect or, as it turned out, an innocent 17 year old. I’d ask the Post if it had any shame, but I think I already know the answer to that question.

FILED UNDER: Media, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Let me guess – the fact that he’s been labelled as a “potential” suspect is enough to protect the Post from charges of libel despite the fact that this kid is a) a private citizen and b) a minor.

  2. Anderson says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: If I’m the kid, I file the lawsuit anyway and let the Post explain to the court why it doesn’t go to a jury.

  3. Since they didn’t identify him by name, I’m not sure he’s going to have much of a case.

  4. matt bernius says:

    Again, the issue is running while Arab (or dark skinned).

    Though I hope after these two gaffs that folks will stop posting stuff like:

    Someone whose name begins with “Jen” and ends with “Os” wrote:
    They’ve [NY Post] got a decent record on straight news, though.

  5. matt bernius says:

    BTW, the same thing should be said about trusting CNN and their focus on dark skinned suspects and the amount of stuff they’ve broken in the hopes of getting the breaking story.

  6. @matt bernius:

    I touched on CNN’s disaster earlier today.

  7. matt bernius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    I know. It was a good take.

    The big difference between the two is that while the Post has long had a reputation for pulling these sorts of stunts, CNN’s reputation was somewhat intact going into the event.

  8. Anderson says:

    Since they didn’t identify him by name, I’m not sure he’s going to have much of a case.

    So if the Post runs your picture on the cover and labels it “Suspect in Boston Bombing,” they get a pass for omitting your name? I think not.

  9. Ben Wolf says:

    I wonder if Murdoch orders his employees to be assholes.

  10. Franklin says:

    @Doug Mataconis: If that’s actually the law, that would be quite absurd. Are you suggesting that I could also point at you and announce to the crowd around me, “there’s a known child molester right there” without slandering, simply because I didn’t say your name?

  11. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @matt bernius: The big difference between the two is that while the Post has long had a reputation for pulling these sorts of stunts, CNN’s reputation was somewhat intact going into the event.

    You must be familiar with a different CNN than I am. The CNN in my world spent years covering up Saddam Hussein’s atrocities in exchange for “access” in Iraq, had its top guy say that the US military was “targeting” journalists in Iraq, stacked a GOP debate with “uncomitted” voters who were Democratic operatives and plants, was known as the “Clinton News Network” in the 1990s…

  12. Caj says:

    Anyone ever taken the time to notice that all the mass shootings in Columbine, Virginia tech, Tuscon, Sandy Hook and others were all committed by white males? So quick to jump on the band wagon of color coding because dark skin sounds so much better to make a point. If anyone thinks racism does not exist still they must be living in a parallel universe. Evil is evil and it comes in all colors and from all religions.

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Caj: Anyone ever taken the time to notice that all the mass shootings in Columbine, Virginia tech, Tuscon, Sandy Hook and others were all committed by white males?

    I can’t tell if you’re really that stupid, or if you think everyone else is stupid. The Virginia Tech shooter was Korean. And ever heard of Colin Ferguson? Or the DC snipers?

    Yes, the vast majority of mass shootings are by white males. But when you listed three explicitly, you managed to pick one that wasn’t by a white male.

    Likewise, many of bombings (successful and unsuccessful) in the US in the last 20 years — at least the ones that have garnered the most attention — have been by Muslim males. The first World Trade Center attack, the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber, the Times Square Bomber, and now possibly Boston, just to name a couple.

    So, do you rush to the defense of white males when there’s a mass shooting, too?