The Fox News story, which was published on Friday and then discussed in a “Fox & Friends” segment Saturday morning, said that The Times had released valuable intelligence in an article of June 8, 2015, about an American military raid in which the wife of a top Islamic State operative was captured. It cited comments made by Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of the United States Special Operations Command, during an interview conducted Friday with Catherine Herridge, the network’s intelligence correspondent, at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
General Thomas told Ms. Herridge that an important lead on Mr. Baghdadi’s whereabouts “was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later, and that lead went dead.” He did not name the paper.
But Fox did name The Times, repeatedly, with the chyron “NYT FOILS U.S. ATTEMPT TO TAKE OUT AL-BAHGDADI;’’ one of the show’s hosts Pete Hegseth, blamed the “failing New York Times” for leaking information.
The story appeared to have prompted a tweet from President Trump Saturday morning.
“The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi,” the president wrote. “Their sick agenda over National Security.”
On Sunday, Ms. Rhoades-Ha requested “an on-air apology and tweet from Fox & Friends.”
“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 said.
Referring to Saturday’s “Fox & Friends” segment, she said, “A host on Fox & Friends wrongly states that, “al-Baghdadi was able to sneak away under the cover of darkness after a New York Times story” and that the U.S. government “would have had al-Baghdadi based on the intelligence that we had except someone leaked information to the failing New York Times.”
On Sunday, The Times also published a fact-check of the Fox News article and the president’s tweet.
Responding to the paper, Fox News said that its story had been updated online and pledged to provide an update to its viewers the following morning. That update, which consisted of airing General Thomas’s comments again, and adding about 15 seconds dedicated to The Times’s response, did not respond directly to the paper’s complaints, nor did it clarify any inaccuracies.
Fox News did not respond directly Monday morning to questions about whether any further correction or clarification was planned, sending links to the “Fox & Friends” segment as well as the relevant portion of the show’s transcript.
The Times’s full letter to Fox News is below:
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,” which aired on Saturday, July 22. 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.
A host on Fox & Friends wrongly states that, “al-Baghdadi was able to sneak away under the cover of darkness after a New York Times story” and that the U.S. government “would have had al-Baghdadi based on the intelligence that we had except someone leaked information to the failing New York Times.”
When in fact the raid against Abu Sayyaf occurred on May 16, 2015 and was announced that day in an official statement by Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Below is an excerpt from the May 16 Pentagon news release:
“Last night, at the direction of the Commander in Chief, I ordered U.S. Special Operations Forces to conduct an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. Abu Sayyaf was involved in ISIL’s military operations and helped direct the terrorist organization’s illicit oil, gas, and financial operations as well. Abu Sayyaf was killed during the course of the operation when he engaged U.S. forces.
U.S. forces captured Umm Sayyaf, who we suspect is a member of ISIL, played an important role in ISIL’s terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yezidi woman rescued last night.”
Baghdadi would have known that Umm Sayyaf, Abu Sayyaf’s wife, was being held, if not from his own communications network then from the Pentagon’s announcement and news reports about that announcement. If the U.S. government wanted to keep the detention and likely interrogation of the wife secret, the Pentagon would not have publicly announced it.
The New York Times story in question was published on June 8, more than three weeks after the raid. Furthermore, The Times described the piece to the Pentagon before publication and they had no objections. No senior American official complained publicly about the story until now, more than two years later.
We understand that the segment and story are based on a misleading assertion by Gen. Thomas speaking at a conference in Aspen. However, that does not alleviate Fox News of the obligation to seek information from all the stakeholders in a story. With this segment, Fox & Friends demonstrated what little regard it has for reporting facts.