06 July 2017 | Adam Johnson | FAIR
In its reporting on a dubious lawsuit alleging Iranian meta-involvement in 9/11, the New York Times badly misunderstood the case and maintained for more than three years, in the paper of record, that the government of Iran “sponsored” the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The belated correction, issued late Wednesday night on two widely spaced articles on the topic, unceremoniously noted that Iran did not, in fact, help commit the 9/11 attacks.
The correction came after a report about a lawsuit last week mistakenly claimed that Iran sponsored 9/11, something that had not been alleged in the suit. The article (6/29/17,archived) originally read:
The government has agreed to distribute proceeds from the building’s sale, which could bring as much as $1 billion, to the families of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks, including the September 11 attacks.
That 9/11 was an “Iranian-sponsored terrorist attack” is a spectacular claim, and one that would radically alter the official narrative of 9/11, just casually thrown into an article by the Times.
In fact, it isn’t even something the lawsuit alleged. The case in question was a class action lawsuit for families of all terrorism victims, and since Iran was a “state sponsor of terrorism,” they were held generically responsible. (The US State Department maintains that Iran is a “state sponsor of terrorism” chiefly because of its support for militant groups like Hezbollah and Iraq’s Kata’ib Hizballah, whose attacks have been mainly directed at other combatants.)
Even if this had been what the lawsuit was alleging, it’s remarkable that reporter Vivian Wang simply took this as fact: No “alleged,” no “lawsuit claims”—Iran’s guilt was simply asserted. And that assertion stood for a week until someone, evidently, got word it was grossly wrong. Late Wednesday night (6/29/17, correction updated 7/5/17), the Times quietly added this correction to the piece:
Correction: July 6, 2017 An article on Friday about a jury’s decision to let the federal government seize a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper it says is controlled by Iran overstated Iran’s responsibility for the September 11 attacks. While a federal court found that Iran had some culpability for the September 11 attacks as a state sponsor of terrorism, it has not been established that Iran sponsored the attacks, which were planned and executed by Al Qaeda. (A similar error occurred in a September 25, 2013, article in the Times.)
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