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How to Twist a News Item: Jose Padilla Is Still a "Dirty Bomber" on foxnews.com

Reported by Nancy - November 23, 2005 -

This morning as I was messing around on the Fox News website I noticed a headline, in the bottom center of the home page, that just screamed for correction: " 'Dirty Bomb' Suspect Padilla Indicted."

Here's how some other news outlets headlined the same story (the first few hits on a googlenews search for "Padilla" -- there were more than 800 results):
Chicago Sun-Times: Terror suspect Padilla indicted
ABC News: Padilla Indicted After Three Years
Detroit Free Press: Charges against Padilla may avert custody ruling
San Jose Mercury News: A trial for Jose Padilla
Miami Herald: Terror Suspect Jose Padilla Indicted
OCRegister: Indictment of Padilla unveiled
Bloomberg: Jose Padilla Indicted By US on Conspiracy Charges (Update2)
Herald News Daily: Terror Suspect Jose Padilla Indicted
San Diego Daily Transcript: Terror suspect Jose Padilla indicted, getting his day in court
Yahoo! News: Terror Suspect Jose Padilla Indicted After 3 Years in Jail
Rocky Mountain News: Padilla indictment was justice delayed
Salt Lake Tribune: Jose Padilla timeline
Minneapolis Star Tribune: A summary of the case against Jose Padilla
Washington Post: Timeline: Events in the Padilla Case
The State: Padilla indicted on terrorism charges

Comments: Anyone want to claim Fox's headline was "fair" or "balanced" (it should be both if Fox wants to live up to its tagline)?


Clicking on the frontpage link led to the story behind it, dated Nov 22. Not only was that headline misleading, but the opening words of the article repeated the misleading words:

WASHINGTON — "Dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla has been indicted by a Miami federal grand jury on criminal charges that he conspired to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas.
The second paragraph is slightly better, indirectly acknowledging that the indictment does not relfect the "dirty bomb" allegations that the Bush administration has been repeating since Padilla was arrested:
The indicment naming Padilla and four others was unsealed Tuesday and returned by a grand last Thursday. While the charges allege Padilla was part of a U.S.-based terrorism conspiracy, they do not include the government's earlier allegations that he planned to carry out attacks in America.
But it's a fairly long article (31 paragraphs, most consisting of only 1-2 sentences), & the first 2/3 was devoted to reiterating the government's claims, in its own words:
Paragraph 3 quotes Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Paragraph 4The indictment says Padilla planned various overseas trips to plan terror operations and sent money and assets abroad from the United States.
Paragraph 5 quotes Gonzales again
Paragraph 6 quotes Gonzales again & praises "the Patriot Act" (sic)
Paragraph 7 quotes Gonzales again
Paragraph 8 allots one sentence to Padilla & one to the Bush administration:
Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert, has been held as an "enemy combatant" in Defense Department custody for more than three years. The Bush administration had resisted calls to charge and try him in civilian courts.
Paragraph 9 quotes Gonzales again
Paragraph 10 quotes Gonzales again
Paragraph 11 quotes Gonzales again
Paragraph 12 talks about how "the indictment avoids a Supreme Court showdown"
Paragraph 13 quotes what Padilla's lawyers said in their earlier appeal.
Paragraph 14 quotes Padilla lawyer, Donna Newman
Paragraph 15 quotes Duke University law professor Scott Silliman, who "said the indictment bodes well for the administration."
Paragraph 16 quotes Silliman again
Paragraph 17 notes that Padilla has been held in a military brig & that "Following the indictment" Bush "sent a memo to" Rumsfeld "ordering Padilla transferred to the federal detention facility in Miami."
Paragraph 18 repeats some of the claims the Bush administration made about Padilla
Paragraph 19 gives deatils about Padilla's arrest & again repeats some of the claims the Bush administration made about Padilla

Then there's a section heading ("The Charges"), & it's not until paragraph 20 that the article starts detailing the actual charges that were filed:

Although the Justice Department has said that Padilla was readying attacks in the United States, the charges against him and four others allege they were part of a conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country, and a conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists abroad.
Paragraphs 21 & 22 talk about the other 4 defendants. The next 3 paragraphs talk about all 5. Paragraphs 26-31 lay out the timeline & events alleged in the indictment.

Comments: The last 11 paragraphs give some details about the actual charges handed up by the grand jury. But the first 19 paragraphs include 17 paragraphs that repeat the official government line & only 2 paragraphs that quote Padilla's lawyers. Padilla, of course, hasn't been allowed to speak publicly for nearly 4 years. So again I ask: Anyone want to claim Fox's article was "fair" or "balanced" (it should be both if Fox wants to live up to its tagline)?


To accompany the article, Fox offered the following links:

STORIES BACKGROUND LINKS
• Fast Facts: Timeline in Jose Padilla Case
• Padilla Asks High Court to Intervene
• Padilla's Lawyer to Gov't: 'Put Up or Shut Up'
• Supreme Court Won't Hear Padilla Case
• Scientists: 'Dirty Bomb' Wouldn't Have Worked
• Padilla Refiles Complaint Against Government
• Padilla Lawyers Challenge U.S. on Charges
• Judge: Gov't Must Charge or Release Padilla
• Padilla's Lawyers Urge Supreme Court Review
• Supreme Court Nixes FCC's Media Ownership Changes
• Supreme Court Overturns Texas Capital Conviction

Comments: Not sure how those last 2 got in there, but not how "dirty bomb" manages to turn up again.

If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: Foxnewsonline@foxnews.com

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Fox's "coverage" of Padilla, or the Padilla case in general). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.