The New York Times on Sunday took the unusual step of requesting an apology from a competitor, asking "Fox & Friends" to retract a report that the Times was to blame for the 2015 escape of an ISIS leader.
"I am writing on behalf of The New York Times to request an on-air apology and tweet from Fox & Friends in regards to a malicious and inaccurate segment “NY Times leak allowed ISIS leader to slip away,” wrote Danielle Rhoades Ha, vice president of communications for the New York Times.
The "Fox & Friends" report, which aired Saturday, apparently spurred a tweet by President Donald Trump: “The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, al-Baghdadi,” the president wrote later Saturday. “Their sick agenda over National Security.”
In her request, Rhoades Ha added: "Neither the staff at Fox & Friends, nor the writers of a related story on Foxnews.com, appeared to make any attempt to confirm relevant facts, nor did they reach out to The New York Times for comment."
A U.S. raid in May 2015 led to the death of Abu Sayyaf — a close associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — and the capture of his wife. The raid in eastern Syria was disclosed the next day by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and additional details were reported in a New York Times article in June 2015.
Fox’s claim that the Times sabotaged U.S. efforts with its reporting originated with a statement from Gen. Tony Thomas, who told Fox that the published report caused a lead to the ISIS leader’s whereabouts to go dry. "That was a very good lead. Unfortunately, it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and that lead went dead,” said Thomas, who leads the U.S. Special Operations Command.
The Times claims the pertinent material was actually disclosed by Carter in his public statement and stated that the Pentagon did not object to its article.
On Saturday, the Times sought clarification from the White House after Trump’s tweet:
"We have asked the White House to clarify the tweet. If the President is referring to this 2015 story, the Pentagon raised no objections with the Times before publishing the story in 2015 and no senior American official ever complained publicly about it until now, as noted in Peter Baker’s story this morning."
Fox did not respond to a request for comment.