On April 17, two days after the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, CNN’s Breaking News Twitter posted that investigators have “ID’d” a suspect in the bombing. However, it was later reported that the news agency was misinformed and there had been no suspect in the investigation.
According to their first tweet, CNN’s Breaking News stated that John King was notified by a source that, “Investigators believe they’ve ID’d suspect in Boston bombings” at 12:04 pm. They made this allegation after a CNN liveblog claimed that the police “identified a suspect based on an analysis of video from a Lord and Taylor department store near the site of the second blast, and that video from a Boston TV station also helped.”
Less than one hour later, they posted, “Law enforcement sources: Arrest made in the Boston bombings investigation” and caused a wave of similar tweets by The Associated Press and Fox News. The Associated Press claimed, “BREAKING: Law enforcement official: Boston Marathon bomb suspect in custody, expected in federal court. – BW”, while Fox News used FoxNews.com as a confirmation for their statement: “#BREAKING NEWS: FoxNews.com confirms arrest made in deadly #Boston Marathon bombing.”
NBC News and other stations researched these accusations and found that there had been no arrest in the case. NBC News wrote on Twitter “Multiple sources confirm to NBC News: “No Arrest.” By 1:43 pm, CNN Breaking News’ Twitter had an update that back-pedaled their initial assertion, mentioning that the Department of Justice and Boston Police Department stated that no arrest has been made in the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings: “DOJ and Boston POD: No arrest has been made in #Boston bombings.”
However, CNN never fully took back their story and continued to post on their live blog about the arrests, again citing John King and a contributor: “The arrest is based on two videos showing images of the suspect, a federal law enforcement source told CNN contributor Fran Townsend.”
This is not the first instance where CNN misreported a major event in recent United States history. Just last year, they published an incorrect version of the Supreme Court verdict on Obamacare, stating that it has “struck down the individual mandate for health care.”
In a statement to Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone, a CNN spokesperson supported their handling of the story citing that they had “credible sources”: “CNN had three credible sources on both local and federal levels. Based on this information we reported our findings. As soon as our sources came to us with new information we adjusted our reporting.”
While CNN claims to be “the worldwide leader in news,” this is a concern for the agency and, furthermore, the rapid spread of information in the United States. CNN surely should not have jumped the gun on this issue and made a false report, but the fact that other news agencies picked up on this story and began to cover it shows the power of the media and their need to fact check constantly.