Fox News has deleted a tweet that falsely identified a Moroccan man as the suspect in the fatal shooting at a Quebec City mosque, after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s spokesperson sent the news outlet a strongly worded missive on Tuesday.
Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s director of communication, had demanded Fox delete or amend the tweet and went public with her request.
“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,” said Purchase in a statement released to media and also posted on her Twitter account.
“If we allow individuals and organizations to succeed by scaring people, we do not actually end up any safer,” she continued. “Ramping up fear and closing our borders is not a solution.”
In an email statement to VICE News, Fox News managing director Refet Kaplan said the outlet “initially corrected the misreported information with a tweet and an update to the story on Monday. The earlier tweets have now been deleted. We regret the error.”
On Monday, police charged Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old Quebec man who appears to hold right-wing sympathies, with six counts of first degree murder and five counts of attempted murder. He is believed to be the only shooter. Earlier that day, police had said there were two suspects, and a number of media reports identified the second man as Mohamed Khadir, a Muslim man who, it later emerged, was actually helping victims of the shooting and had nothing to do with the attack.
Well after it was widely reported that Bissonnette was the only suspect, Fox News tweeted on Monday: “Suspect in Quebec mosque terror attack was of Moroccan origin, reports show.” The tweet remains live. A number of media outlets who had published Khadir’s name deleted or amended their reports on Monday.
Fox News’ tweets, and examples of misinformation and fake news, helped fuel a number of racist rumors on social media that Syrian refugees were to blame for the mosque attack. Other news outlets including Reuters still have similar tweets with the false information regarding the suspect, but it doesn’t appear that Purchase has requested they be removed.
Cameron Ahmad, Trudeau’s press secretary, told VICE News in an email that “any misleading or erroneous information, regardless of source, should be removed – and of course we would ask all outlets do the same.”
It’s unclear whether Trudeau’s office made the same request it did to Fox News to other media outlets.