Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Mastodon Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube

Revisiting the Very First, Very Wrong Reports on Bin Laden's Death

For all the news reports that have called out the Obama administration for revising, retreating, overhauling or otherwise “backpedaling on the narrative” of bin Laden’s death, it’s worth revisiting an earlier episode of error.

In the hour or so leading up to the president’s announcement, many news organizations and journalists, in a race to be first, advanced wildly inaccurate versions of a developing story—enough to create an alternate history of what happened.

CNN, for instance, tweeted that it had spoken with “congressional and administration officials” and been told that Osama bin Laden was “killed in Afghanistan.” This seemed to have been repeated by Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s Situation Room. It was also repeated on Twitter by former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, who later corrected the mistake, calling it a “typographical error.”

Fox News International Correspondent Mike Tobin checked with news sources and tweeted that they were all in sync: Bin Laden was “killed a week ago,” he said, and the “delay was waiting for DNA match.”

The reported causes of the bin Laden’s death were also all over the board. CNN’s John King speculated that it was a drone.

ABC more than speculated—it initially attributed the reporting to its own investigative correspondent: “Bin Laden killed in the drone strike last week that killed more than 20 people, he was among them, @BrianRoss reports.” Its senior foreign correspondent tweeted the same news and later corrected.

Fox News anchor Clayton Morris tweeted that a “U.S. MISSLE STRIKE KILLED OSAMA BIN LADIN ONE WEEK AGO.” The Daily Caller tweeted something to the same effect.

That’s just to name a few. Chime in below with any we missed.

Latest Stories from ProPublica

Current site Current page