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With Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Death, the Media Seem Determined to Have Their Reputation Join Him

AP Photo

With the announcement of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Sunday, the media did themselves no favors in their reporting on the vile terrorist.

One of the major offenses came from The Washington Post. In their obituary about al-Baghdadi, the "Democracy Dies In Darkness" paper changed the headline from "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State 'terrorist-in-chief,' dies at 48" to "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48." In other words, they thought the latter was an improvement.


Following the intense backlash to the headline characterization, which could have included how he was a serial rapist, the headline was changed a third time as well, "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48."

Kristine Coratti Kelly, the Post's vice president for communications, tweeted their headline "should never have read that way."

Of course, the only reason it "read" that way was that someone wrote it that way. Kelly went on to tell CNN's Brian Stelter the headline was "written in haste."

But the problem was not just their headline. Parts of the piece read as if the Post actually had a member of ISIS write it up. The story contained the following lines:

"When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took the reins of the Islamic State of Iraq in 2010, few had heard of the organization or its new leader, an austere religious scholar with wire-frame glasses and no known aptitude for fighting and killing."

"And yet, despite the group's extremist view and vicious tactics, Mr. Baghdadi maintained a canny pragmatism as leader, melding a fractious mix of radical jihadists and former Iraqi Baathists and army officers into an effective military force."


Not to be outdone, Bloomberg Politics tweeted, "Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi transformed himself from a little-known teacher of Koranic recitation into the self-proclaimed ruler of an entity that covered swaths of Syria and Iraq."

It is one thing to note about al-Baghdadi's leadership resulting in ISIS becoming a very real threat, but it is another to lead off with their successes that come off as marveling at what they have achieved.

In the ever-evolving game of "hold my beer," individual reporters also took it upon themselves to downplay the significance of U.S. troops successfully taking down the leader of a brutal terror group. 

CNBC reporter John Harwood said al-Baghdadi's death is "very unlikely to influence public opinion much since...most Americans don’t know who he was and...Trump has claimed over and over that he had already obliterated ISIS." He added, that in the country's psyche, "Baghdadi was to bin Laden as an ant is to an elephant."


Breakfast Media's Andrew Feinberg accused Trump of wanting to recreate "a we got bin Laden' moment" and said Trump's announcement "should not be carried life, he’s forfeited that privilege with all the lying."

As if the whitewashing of the terrors al-Baghdadi's group unleashed on the people in Iraq and Syria was not enough, people then accused Trump and his cabinet of staging the photograph after the operation was already was over.

The claim appears to have started with Pete Souza, who was the chief official White House photographer for President Barack Obama, when he tweeted the photograph's metadata showed it was taken at five in the evening, claiming the operation took place two hours earlier.


It appears Souza did not adjust the time changes correctly, which he admitted in a follow-up tweet.

While Souza's original tweet with the false information was boosted by typical "resistance" social media accounts, it was retweeted by many reporters, such as Harwood and Feinberg. Souza's tweet is still up with over 20,000 retweets at the time of publication.

While Feinberg sent another tweet later saying Souza's tweet was incorrect, other journalists and media types were duped by the initial tweet.

Finally, Post columnist Max Boot made the argument Trump was wrong in his claim that al-Baghdadi died a coward because "rather than be captured he blew himself up."

All of this occurred within 48 hours of the first reports of al-Baghdadi's death. It speaks volumes how some media outlets and reporters found it hard to truly describe a sad excuse of a human being or tried to downplay the significance of his death because "orange man bad."


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