NYT Reviews Article After FBI Director Challenges San Bernardino Reporting

The New York Times public editor tweeted Thursday that the newspaper was reviewing an article published earlier this week stating that an attacker in the San Bernardino shooting openly posted about her views on “violent jihad” over social media.

The newspaper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, also told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple that the publication was “reporting it out” after FBI Director James Comey contradicted the report.

The article currently under review ran Sunday on the front page of The New York Times under the headline, “Visa Screening Missed an Attacker’s Zealotry on Social Media.” It stated that that Tashfeen Malik, who, along with her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, attacked a holiday party for county employees earlier this month, “talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.” The report cited unnamed government officials.

But on Wednesday, Comey said in a news conference that the couple showed signs of support for jihad through “direct, private messages,” according to The Washington Post.

“So far, in this investigation we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period in time and thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom,” Comey said, as quoted by the Post. “I’ve seen some reporting on that, and that’s a garble.”

The Times’ report on Comey’s news conference reflected the language of those comments, stating that the couple “used private online messages to express their commitment to jihad and to martyrdom in the years before the attack, but they did not make those communications on social media.”

Other news outlets that reported on the shooters’ social media use used terms that made it clear Malik’s postings were sent through private channels. CNN reported Monday, citing anonymous law enforcement officials, that Malik’s posts were “obscured” under “strict privacy settings” that only allowed a small group of people to see them. She also used a pseudonym, according to the report.

The Los Angeles Times published a report that same day, citing two unnamed government officials, that said Malik had pledged her support for jihad in “private communications.”

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest Livewire
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: