After Fox News spread false information about the nationality of the suspected shooter accused of killing six people at a mosque in Quebec City this week, it took a letter from Canada’s prime minister’s office to get the news outlet to delete the errant tweet.
Misinformation ran rampant in the hours following the shooting on Monday morning, which left six dead and more than a dozen more injured. Many news outlets incorrectly reported that two shooters were involved in the massacre. Twitter bots spread entirely false accusations that the shooter was Muslim and a Syrian refugee, a claim of particular potency due to President Donald Trump‘s recent ban on refugees from the war-torn country.
But it was Fox News, the most-watched cable news network in the United States, with a Twitter following of 11 million, that may have spread the false claims the farthest.
On Monday, Fox News tweeted, incorrectly, that the shooter was Moroccan. In fact, the suspected shooter arrested and charged with the murders of six people, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, is a white, French-Canadian.
The news outlet had corrected its article claiming as much at approximately noon on Monday, but the tweet remained on its feed.
As Canada’s National Post reports, Fox News did not remove the tweet despite police confirmation of the suspected shooter’s nationality until after a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a letter to Fox News co-president Bill Shine.
Here’s the full letter to Shine, written by Trudeau’s communications director, Kate Purchase, which she posted to Twitter:
It has come to my attention that a Fox News tweet posted on Twitter at 12:31pm, January 30, 2017, contains false and misleading language relating to the identity of the suspect in the
Quebec mosque terror attack. I have attached a copy of the tweet for your reference.
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.
Sadly, this misleading information has been left to stand on the Fox News Channel’s twitter account and continued to circulate online even now.
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.
These tweets by Fox News dishonour the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities.
We need to remain focused on keeping our communities safe and united instead of trying to build walls and scapegoat communities. Muslims are predominantly the greatest victims of terrorist acts around the world. To paint terrorists with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims is not just ignorant – it is irresponsible.
If we allow individuals and organizations to succeed by scaring people, we do not actually end up any safer. Fear does not make us safer. It makes us weaker. Ramping up fear and closing our borders is not a solution. It distracts from the real issues that affect people’s day to day life.
For all of these reasons, we ask that Fox News either retract or update the tweet to reflect the suspect’s actual identity.
Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.
Director of Communications
Office of the Prime Minister of Canada
Fox News deleted the tweet soon after Shine received Purchase’s letter.
“FoxNews.com initially corrected the misreported information with a tweet and an update to the story on Monday,” Refet Kaplan, managing director of FoxNews.com, said in a statement. “The earlier tweets have now been deleted. We regret the error.”
Correction: Fox News updated and corrected its article about the nationality of the suspected shooter. It remains online. We regret the error.