But later that day, NBC, CBS, and the Los Angeles Times all reported the same “falsehood,” also citing law-enforcement sources. On Tuesday The Washington Post published a piece headlined “Injured Saudi Is a Witness, Not a Suspect, in Boston Bombing,” producing another torrent of gleeful Post bashing (and becoming the site’s most read story of the day). But reading beyond the headline, the reader would see that while the young Saudi was indeed an innocent bystander, he only became a witness after authorities descended on his apartment Monday evening, clearing him of suspicion. One can quibble over the use of “suspect” or “person of interest”—and why suspicions fall on this particular spectator (we know that answer to that)—but no other victims had their apartments torn apart, so it’s fair to say authorities were wrongly suspicious.
The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson recounted an interview Fox News conducted with the Saudi nonsuspect’s roommate: “‘Let me go to school, dude,” the roommate said later in the day, covering his face with his hands and almost crying, as a Fox News producer followed him and asked him, again and again, if he was sure he hadn’t been living with a killer. Watch the tape and tell me if that’s what you see. An ordinary television interview—pushy, slightly repetitive questioning—is transformed online, with annoyance and exasperation rendered as “almost crying.” Well, you say, it sounds like something Fox News would do, so what’s the difference?
Isn’t the outrage here a bit selective and, under the banner of keeping journalists honest, a tad dishonest? The complaints about the New York Post transformed from a “made-up story knocked down by police” to a parsing of the words “suspect,” “potential suspect,” and “person of interest.” Other news agencies—like CBS, which on Tuesday reported that the Saudi was “no longer considered a suspect”—used the same language but were spared the bile.