Mohamed Belkhadir was quickly released and cleared of involvement, but Fox's tweet stayed up for nearly two days — until the Canadian prime minister's office wrote the outlet to demand a retraction.
Belkhadir later explained that he'd been trying to help people killed and wounded in the attack when police picked him up.
“He said he had been clearing snow off the steps outside the mosque when he heard gunshots,” the Guardian reported. "When the noise stopped, he called 911 and entered the mosque." He fled when an armed man arrived — not realizing it was a police officer.
Anyone who clicked the link on Fox's tweet would have read a story in which Belkhadir's ethnicity led the news.
Along with the erroneous tweet, those details spread online into anti-Islamic circles and helped create a false narrative that the attacker was Muslim.
Fox said it put out a new tweet and corrected the report within hours. (Its original story, which is now accurate, contains no indication that it was modified.)
But Fox didn't seem in any hurry to take down its old tweet about the Moroccan mosque suspect, which kept being shared for another day — until the leadership of Canada took offense.
“These tweets by Fox News dishonor the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's communications director wrote to Fox.
“To paint terrorists with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims is not just ignorant — it is irresponsible,” wrote spokesperson Kate Purchase, who shared the letter in a tweet.
“We ask that Fox News either retract or update the tweet to reflect the suspect's actual identity.”
Sure enough, Fox then took down the offending tweet and released a statement of its own.
“The earlier tweets have now been deleted,” wrote Refet Kaplan, managing director of Fox News's website. “We regret the error.”
The Canadians seemed appeased.