There’s an old adage in the news business: dog bites man; not news. Man bites dog; news! But what about when dog bites dog? In the media business that’s big news when the dogs, two giant media outlets–The New York Times vs. Fox News–are battling over “fake news.”
Danielle Rhoades-Ha, vice president of communications for The Times issued a rare, if not unprecedented, demand for an apology from Fox for airing a segment claiming the newspaper “foiled” efforts to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The demand is also significant because it’s the first time a “mainstream media” outlet has challenged a right-leaning outlet over what ostensibly is a distorted, if not outright fake, news item.
Even Donald Trump got into the act by mentioning the report in a torrent of blistering Tweets over the weekend.
The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist,Al-Baghdadi.Their sick agenda over National Security
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
Trump echoed Fox News, the source of much of his information. He accused “the Failing New York Times” of foiling an attempt to kill al-Baghdadi.
The tweet came about 20 minutes after the “Fox and Friends” segment, headlined: NYT Foils U.S. Attempt to Take Out al-Baghdadi,” according to CBS News.
The Fox segment was based on remarks by Gen. Raymond Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), who gave a speech at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Thomas told the audience the U.S. had valuable intelligence about the ISIS leader in 2015 gleaned from a raid that led to the death of ISIS oil minister Abu Sayyaf and the capture of his wife.
The wife “gave us a treasure trove of information about where she had just been with Baghdadi in Raqqa,” he said.
“Unfortunately it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later.” Then, the trail went cold, Thomas said. “That’s a challenge we have in terms of where and how our tactics and procedures are discussed openly.”
As it turned out, The Times published a story about the raid on June 8, 2015.
Normally, that might have been the end of it.
But The Times yesterday demanded that “Fox & Friends” retract and issue a formal apology to the newspaper. Fox published the Times’ letter on its Web site, but did not issue an apology.
“I am writing on behalf of The New York Times to request an on-air apology and tweet from Fox & Friends in regards to a malicious and inaccurate segment ‘NY Times leak allowed ISIS leader to slip away,’” Rhoades-Ha wrote.
“Neither the staff at Fox & Friends, nor the writers of a related story on Foxnews.com, appeared to make any attempt to confirm relevant facts, nor did they reach out to The New York Times for comment,” she added.
In fact, Defense Secretary Ash Carter disclosed the raid publicly shortly after it happened, according to The Times. “This is very useful, very important intelligence that we were able to collect,” a Defense official told POLITICO at the time.
Even Fox News reported on the raid on May 17, 2015, a month before The Times story, which was a follow-up to an earlier story. The Pentagon had no objection to The Times story when it was published, Rhoades-Ha noted.
Rhoades-Ha told Politico she is still waiting for a response from the “Fox & Friends.”
“We asked them for an apology because the entire premise of their segment is false,” Rhoades-Ha said.
“We have asked the White House to clarify the tweet. If the President is referring to this 2015 story, the Pentagon raised no objections with the Times before publishing the story in 2015 and no senior American official ever complained publicly about it until now, as noted in Peter Baker’s story this morning,” Rhoades-Ha said.