Don't Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story

KVLY (Fargo/Grand Forks) aired the story about a man that raped a woman that worked in a local gas station.

According to the station's report, anchor Andrea Larson opened the newscast thusly: "Court documents say the man accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a gas station worker uttered 'Allahu Akbar' during the assault, which means 'God is the greatest' in Arabic." Reporter Nicole Johnson repeated the information during her story.

There was just one problem. The man never said 'Allahu Akbar' during the assault like the station claimed.

With raw tension over the threat of Islamic terrorism, the idea of an alleged rapist named Abdulrahman Ali saying "Allahu Akbar" while committing an assault on a North Dakota woman added a whole different level of fear to those already wild-eyed about anything having to do with Islam.

The suspect did say "Allahu Akbar"  while being restrained by the cops, but he did not say it during the attack.

When the cops were asked about the station's report, they said that the story was "inaccurate according to our information."

KVLY News Director Ike Walker would not return phone calls,but did respond to an email asking for clarification. Walker responded that the original story on the station's website had been corrected (It had been "updated" — using their term).

A follow-up email sent to Walker asking if the station was going to run an on-air correction, and seeking details on how this mistake happened, was not answered.

InForum writes,this error matters, hugely. It changes the entire narrative. It goes from a slightly odd crime story to one that carries the implication of terrorism, religious fanaticism, Islamic extremism and even the dangers of unchecked immigration.

Having Ali saying "Allahu Akbar" while committing the assault turned the story into something completely different. It was spicier, scarier, more tantalizing.

Reporter Nicole Johnson took to the station's website after the InForum article to chastise the Reporter that pointed out her mistake.  She then wrote, "While transcribing the documents I transposed the deputy’s name for the alleged victim’s name. It’s a mistake that we as a station regret and we corrected."

Like the old saying goes, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.