Trudeau, or at least one of his decision makers, was apparently not too happy with FOX News for a tweet it published describing a suspect in Sunday night’s mosque shooting in Quebec City as “Moroccan” after a man of Moroccan-origin was mistaken by authorities on scene for an attacker. The tweet remained on FOX News’ twitter feed even after it became apparent the man was innocent and no longer a suspect.
Perhaps FOX News should have deleted the tweet. Unfortunately, news outlets like FOX News often report incorrect information in the immediate aftermath of terror attacks and mass shootings. That is part and parcel of reporting on these things in modern media. Witnesses are often scared and confused, police are filled with adrenaline and scrambling to make a dangerous situation safe. Meanwhile, every media company is rushing to get something written and posted to their web sites for eyeballs and clicks. Unfortunately, during this confusion and the race to deliver news and outpace competitors (even at the expense of properly vetting information) if an organization learns authorities have arrested a Moroccan man at the site of a terror attack someone will report it. After all, large-scale terror attacks in the West tend to be carried out by Muslims and Islam is the state religion of Morocco. It is not hard to draw the connecting lines. While no one likes incorrect news, authorities had an acceptable reason to apprehend the individual: he was running away from a police officer, having mistaken the officer for a gunman and being afraid for his own safety. The confusing circumstances expectantly led to mistakes.
When the PM’s office realized FOX News had not deleted their original tweet fingering the man of Moroccan-origin as being a suspect in the attack, they did not let an opportunity to virtue signal to the world and the Muslim community pass by.
As per usual, when authorities revised their assessment of the situation along with information about a new suspect, news organizations began changing their stories to reflect the new information. Surely the PM’s office had better things to do than pursue an American news organization publicly about an outdated tweet on their twitter feed.
Apparently, they did not. They needed to make people aware of it. Trudeau’s director of communications, Kate Purchase, sent an e-mail to the co-President of FOX News Channel outlining her displeasure with Fox News for not deleting the tweet.
National Post has a copy of the letter and offending tweet here.
Purchase pointedly describes the shooter:
Over the course of the day, this proved to be false information. In fact, the suspect was identified as a 27 year old French Canadian – not someone of Moroccan-origin.
She goes on to channel Trudeau’s oft-repeated “Diversity is our strength” dictum:
Canada is an open, welcoming country that stands by its citizens. We are a nation of millions of immigrants and refugees, of hundreds of cultures, languages, and religions bound by one, unwavering, unshakable belief: we are stronger not in spite of our differences, but because of them.
If the shooter was believed to be a French-Canadian, and new information absolved the French-Canadian and pinned the correct shooter as a Muslim from Morocco, would the PM’s office have complained to FOX News for not deleting the tweet? It is very, very unlikely. Trudeau would have little motivation to jump at the defense of French or Anglo-Canadians. Seemingly Trudeau and his office could not forgo an opportunity in the politically charged days following US President Trump’s so called “Muslim Ban” to infer Fox News had malicious intent by not deleting their tweet about the suspect being foreign-born while signaling once again to Canada’s different groups, “Diversity is our strength!”
Trudeau has a knack for reminding Canadians they are different from one another. It is part of his brand.
This charge against FOX News seems more like an attempt to grandstand before the Liberal Party’s growing foreign-born voter base than a sincere gesture of anything meaningful. As if it is a reminder to this base that Trudeau and company will defend them to the end, even against an outdated tweet. That would be fine if the danger Trudeau was protecting them from was more substantial than a tweet that contained outdated information about the shooter’s country of origin.
Trudeau’s intentions may not have been to draw attention away from incorrect information in a tweet so much as it was to draw attention to himself. Muslims in Canada, and elsewhere in Western civilization, are an embattled group. Anytime a minority group appears in a society where the group’s values and norms are not always conductive to the society they inhabit the group will need special treatment (it is even harder when the group’s religion is one that stands at odds with established Western values and norms at times.) Trudeau and his ilk will offer that support in spades even if it is just empty platitudes. Trudeau’s efforts to resettle mostly-Muslim Syrian refugees has not been smooth sailing by many accounts. He may have felt the need to reassure the country he has his particular vision of multicultural Canada set firmly on course.
There is something to say in defense of keeping incorrect news tweets when they do not contain certain kinds of very specific information. By deleting the tweet FOX News is wiping away evidence of bad information that may become relevant again, even just to document the act of nabbing a wrong suspect or misreporting the incident in the first place. Tweets cannot be edited and can contain a limited amount of characters, so they are of limited informative value. It is unlikely future journalists and scholars will be gleaning much information about the incident from FOX News’ twitter feed, anyhow. The tweet was very unlikely to misguide, for long, any readers who would happen upon it later in the day. The incident seemed more like an opportunity for Trudeau to remind his foreign-born voters, future and present: “I have your back. Remember me at election time.”
FOX News has since deleted the tweet.