NPR “Correction” Obscures How “Terrorism Correspondent” Falsified How We Might End Threats
On Monday, the day after the horrific Orlando massacre, FAIR published a piece of mine: “Commenting on Orlando, NPR Terrorism Reporter Reverses Political Lesson of Madrid Blast,” which stated:
Shortly before noon on Sunday (6/12/16), during NPR’s national coverage of the horrific shooting in Orlando, NPR “counter-terrorism correspondent” Dina Temple-Raston [@NPRDina] made a critical false claim that deserves an on-air correction.
NPR’s hosts were talking about the Orlando shooting, terrorism and the US election. They asked Temple-Raston to chime in on the issue, and she drew a parallel with Spain, claiming that when the 2004 Madrid train attacks happened just before the Spanish election, “the more conservative candidate ended up winning.”
This is exactly backwards.
In fact, the incumbent government, led by the conservative People’s Party, had brought the country into the Iraq War a year before against public opposition, and feared that if the attack were shown to be Mideast-related, voters would be furious. The day of the attack, March 11, 2004, the Spanish government had the United Nations Security Council pass resolution 1530, which condemned in “the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA.” Three days later, the day of the election, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility.
Late Tuesday, I got a note from the NPR ombudsperson, Elizabeth Jensen (@ejensenNYC) pointing me to a “correction” on their website, which states: “On June 12, 2016, during a live broadcast about the Orlando shootings, NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston was mistaken when she said commuter trains in Madrid were bombed in 2007. In fact, that happened in 2004. She also was mistaken about the results of elections that were held three days after the bombings. Prime Minister José María Aznar’s party was defeated. Her comments begin around the 42:15 mark in the audio attached to this page.”
I responded with the note below and have not received a response as yet:
If I understand the situation, this is merely being posted online, on the “corrections page” — I don’t see any link to that from the front page. The original falsehood was broadcast live on air on hundreds of stations at what was likely a time of very high listenership, just after the horrific Orlando massacre.
All this is ironically mitigated by the fact that the “correction” does virtually nothing to communicate that Temple-Raston got the story exactly backwards. Temple-Raston claimed that the “more conservative” Spanish party won just after the 2004 Madrid train terror attacks, when in fact, the more antiwar party won — largely because of a 10 percent swing in the polls following the attacks.
Nor does it communicate the critical significance of the underlying point: This was in a discussion about the U.S. election: How would a terror attack affect political campaigns? Virtually no one reading this correction will have any sense of that.
There’s a huge story about what happened in Spain, how Spain has suffered no Mideast related terrorism in over a decade after this dramatic election following the attacks which led to the more antiwar party entering office and ending Spain’s participation in the Iraq war. Do you have plans for that to be shared with your listeners? How it might affect decisions the U.S. makes?
“Counter-terrorism correspondent” Temple-Raston’s getting the year wrong as well is ironically used in the “correction” to further bury the lead of her getting the story backwards.
This can hardly be seen as a response that would compel reporters to ensure they don’t disinform your listeners.