Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, used bogus news peddled by some major U.S. media outlets to denounce the United States and foster anti-American perceptions Tuesday.
Khamenei, speaking before gathered Iranian military leaders, pointed to stories a five-year-old child was detained and then handcuffed at Dulles International Airport as part of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
“We actually thank this new president!” Khamenei told military leaders. “We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States … Now, with everything he is doing — handcuffing a child as young as five at an airport — he is showing the reality of American human rights.”
Except the handcuffing incident never happened. A five-year-old Iranian child was temporarily detained after Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration but reports of a handcuffing turned out to be based on a 2015 photograph of a child being detained at school. Some outlets reported the child was only detained, while others, hungry to undermine the credibility of the administration, quickly ran with the handcuffing angle.
“Although the boy was detained — the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said that ‘to assume that just because of someone’s age or gender, or whatever, that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong’ — he was apparently not handcuffed,” The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The alleged incident reportedly happened on Jan. 27, at Dulles. It came after an executive order from Trump that temporarily banned travel from seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Somalia. The executive order also banned new refugee entries for 120 days, and indefinitely suspended Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
It is not clear when large media outlets began reporting the Iranian boy had been handcuffed, using a photo taken in 2015. But the reporting shot around the world, and was published in Arab American News and in outlets in Great Britain and Australia. Debunking of the handcuffing detail began on Feb. 1, when Snopes.com identified that the photograph of the child was taken in 2015, during an incident at a Kentucky school. WUSA-TV also ran a report debunking the handcuff claim.
“It is not apparent whether the image circulated in error, or if it was purposely misidentified,” Snopes wrote. “However, it does not show a handcuffed child detained at Dulles in January 2017; it shows a handcuffed child detained at school in August 2015.”
After the debunking, news stories from major outlets began to disappear from the web. A story published by Yahoo News disappeared. Google News results Tuesday brought up a Jan. 31 Yahoo News piece headlined: “5-Year Old Iranian-American Boy Handcuffed, Held at Dulles.” A click on the story link brings up a “page not found” message. A story in the United Kingdom’s The Independent apparently mentioned handcuffs; now it does not.
Some stories and editorials did not make a correction. The Baltimore Sun still hasn’t corrected an opinion piece by Chris Edelson, a professor at American University, who makes the claim. The left-wing AlterNet made the claim as recently as Tuesday afternoon, well after Snopes debunked the story.
Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a foreign policy adviser to Trump, could not comment about the issue on Tuesday when approached by LifeZette. But earlier in the day, Gorka told a caller during “The Michael Medved Show” that fake news is indeed being used against Trump for political reasons, going back months before the election.
“Every single organ that generates these kinds of stories comes from the same clique of media organs that predicted that Hillary would win and that Brexit wouldn’t occur,” said Gorka. “I know what fake news is. And it’s coming from those organizations.”
A longtime conservative media watchdog said accuracy is being tossed aside in a rush to zing Trump, and America’s enemies are using some of the claims.
“It appears that more media fake news is now being used as a propaganda tool by the anti-American loons who run Iran,” said Dan Gainor, vice resident of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center. “This is what happens when news media operate on their own bizarre version of publish or perish. They left behind accuracy in pursuit of hit jobs on President Trump.”