When asked for comment this morning on the lawsuit filed yesterday by two Massachusetts residents against the New York Post, a spokeswoman for the paper responded, “I would refer you to our previous statement from April 18th.”
That statement came from New York Post top editor Col Allan, and it said this:
We stand by our story. The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects.
Nonsense, say the lawyers for Salaheddin Barhoum and Yassine Zaimi, the plaintiffs in the “Bag Men” suit. When asked whether he bought the Allan’s claim that the paper hadn’t fingered the Massachusetts residents as suspects, attorney Max D. Stern responded: “Well, what does ‘Bag Men’ mean, for starters? It’s obvious that it’s a reference to the fact that it had been reported that law enforcement believed that the perpetrators brought their bombs to the scene in a backpack.” Stern represents Barhoum, a 16-year-old high school student from Revere, Mass.
On the same day as “Bag Men,” the New York Post published a story online titled “Two men probed in Boston Marathon bombings cleared by investigators.” C. William Barrett, attorney for Zaimi, views that story as an “attempt at a retraction.” And a lousy one, he suggests. “First of all, the two men weren’t probed by anybody, and they were never cleared by investigators because they were never suspects,” says Barrett, noting that the two plaintiffs had gone voluntarily to authorities to establish their innocence after their photos surfaced on the Internet via crowdsourcing investigations of the bombings.
“The attempt at a retraction is misleading and libelous in itself,” says Barrett.
Both attorneys say they did not bring their grievances to the New York Post in advance of filing the suit — perhaps because neither believes in the good faith of the newspaper. Noting that his complaint had misspelled the name of New York Post owner Rupert Murdoch (“Murdock,” in the filing), Barrett said, “Maybe that’s a good example of an innocent mistake compared to a deliberate one.”
And Stern wondered about the sensibilities of the New York Post in publishing the “Bag Men” package: “I would just pose the question of whether what … the Post thought made this credible was that these kids appeared to be of Middle Eastern origin and that’s what cemented their story. I can’t believe that if they were a couple of white kids from the suburbs with backpacks that the Post would have done what they did here,” said Stern.