Fox News pundits repeatedly pushed -- and then walked back -- a false narrative propagated by an anti-Islam blogger that an “ISIS-linked” Twitter account warned of the Tennessee shooting prior to the attack.
(All times in EDT.)
Gunman Kills 4 Marines In Tennessee, Prompting A Tweet From ISIS Supporter
10:45 A.M.: Shooter Opens Fire At Recruiting Station In Tennessee. Around 10:45 a.m. on July 16, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez drove his car to a recruiting center in Chattanooga and opened fire, before heading to a military training center where he killed four Marines. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
The attacks, which happened minutes apart, began when a single shooter, identified as 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, drove a silver Ford Mustang convertible to a Lee Highway recruiting center at 10:45 a.m andfired more than a dozen rounds into the building. After his initial barrage, he led responding police officers on a high-speed chase down Amnicola Highway to a second military installation, where he opened fire again and was killed after a gun battle that one witness estimated lasted 20 minutes. [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 7/16/15]
1:34 P.M.: ISIS Supporter Tweets About Chattanooga Attack. Approximately three hours after the Chattanooga shooting began, an apparent ISIS supporter wrote a tweet mentioning Chattanooga, at 1:34 p.m.:
Fringe Anti-Islam Blogger Hypes False Timeline To Claim “ISIS Tweeted Warning” Before Shooting
3:21 P.M.: Pamela Geller Claims ISIS Tweet Was Posted At 10:34 A.M. At 3:21 p.m., right-wing Islamophobic blogger Pamela Geller wrote a tweet claiming that an ISIS supporter tweeted about the Chattanooga shooting 11 minutes before it began, writing on her blog that “ISIS tweeted warning” of the shooting:
-- Pamela Geller (@PamelaGeller) July 16, 2015
3:34 P.M.: Jihad Watch, Citing Geller, Claims “ISIS Tweets 'Chattanooga' As Gunman Begins Shooting There.” At 3:34 p.m., anti-Muslim activist Robert Spencer wrote on the blog Jihad Watch that "[t]he Islamic State tweet warning of the attack or crowing about the attack was posted at 10:34AM," citing Geller for the image of the tweet. [Jihad Watch, 7/16/15]
Fox News Figures Run With “ISIS-Linked” Tweet Reports For Hours
4:10 P.M.: Sean Hannity Cites Jihad Watch “Timeline” To Claim “The Islamic State Tweeted A Warning About The Attack.” On his radio program The Sean Hannity Show, Fox News host Sean Hannity cited Spencer's Jihad Watch post to claim ISIS tweeted about the Chattanooga attack before it happened:
HANNITY: We have a report from Robert Spencer's Jihad Watch, that he's put together -- a timeline regarding today's, what they are now calling a domestic terrorist act in Chattanooga. We have four Marines that have been killed. By the way, our thoughts, our prayers are with the families and the entire military community there. According to the AP, the shooting started around 10:30, 10:45. The Islamic State tweeted a warning about the attack, posted at 10:34 a.m. The ISIS tweet specifically mentioned Chattanooga, which is an obvious reference to the attack. If it's true that ISIS was taking credit for the shooting at the exact same time, or maybe slightly before the shooting commenced, that would be pretty strong evidence of a connection. And Spencer reminds us the Islamic State has called on Muslims to murder American military personnel here in the U.S. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 7/16/15]
4:36 P.M.: Fox News' Catherine Herridge First Reports That “ISIS-Linked Twitter Account ... Seemed To Have Foreknowledge Of The Shooting.” At 4:36 p.m., senior intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge first claimed that a Twitter account apparently linked to ISIS tweeted about the attack before it occurred:
HERRIDGE: The last investigative thread I would mention at this point, is that we're taking a hard look at a Twitter account -- an ISIS-linked Twitter account -- that seemed to have foreknowledge of the shooting in Chattanooga. The tweet went out at 10:34 with the hashtag Chattanooga, referring to American dogs and a likely shooting. This, of course, was about 15 minutes before the shooting took place. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/16/15]
4:47 P.M.: Stuart Varney Repeats Claim Of “A Suspicious ISIS Twitter Account” Mentioning Attack "15 Minutes Before" It Began. Guest host Stuart Varney, a Fox Business host, repeated Herridge's claim, saying, “Our own Catherine Herridge reports a suspicious ISIS Twitter account, putting out an obscure tweet 15 minutes before the shooting actually began.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/16/15]
5:07 P.M.: Herridge: “What Caught My Attention” Is The “ISIS-Linked Tweet” Sent “11 Minutes Before The Shooting.” In the five o'clock hour, Fox host Shepard Smith asked Catherine Herridge about a possible connection to ISIS, and Herridge responded by citing the“ISIS-linked” tweet sent “11 minutes before the shooting took place”:
HERRIDGE: I don't think we can make a direct connection with the attack in Tennessee and these ISIS tweets. But I know from my experience what's happening right now is they're doing a forensic scrub of Abdulazeez's electronics, so as John mentioned, the phone, the computer, his network of contacts through social media. And there is no doubt that the FBI is looking at a series of tweets that have now been posted online by what appears to be an ISIS-linked account. And what caught my attention, and would catch any investigator's attention, is the timing. It has a timestamp of 10:34, approximately 11 minutes before the shooting took place. And it has a hashtag,at Chattanooga, and then other derogatory comments about American citizens. [Fox News, Shepard Smith Reporting, 7/16/15]
5:37 P.M.: Correspondent John Roberts Hypes “ISIS-based Tweets” Sent “Before The First Attack” As Important “Line Of Inquiry” For Officials To Investigate. On Fox Business' Risk and Reward with Deirdre Bolton, correspondent John Roberts cited a possible connection between the tweet sent “shortly before the first attack took place” and the shooting:
ROBERTS: Catherine Herridge, our fine national security correspondent, has been reporting that shortly before the first attack took place, a series of ISIS-based tweets went out suggesting that there was going to be some sort of an attack in the United States. Officials right now are not suggesting that there is any connection between those tweets and the actions that happened here in Chattanooga, but you can bet it's certainly a line of inquiry that they are pursuing. [Fox Business, Risk and Reward with Deirdre Bolton, 7/16/15]
6:06 P.M.: Herridge: “We're Not Linking” ISIS With The Shooting, But A Tweet With A “Very Specific Time Stamp” Implies “Foreknowledge” Of Attack. In the six o'clock hour, Special Report host Bret Baier brought in Herridge to once again push the narrative that based on the tweet, ISIS seemed “to have foreknowledge of what was to come.”:
BAIER: And we want to be careful here because we're not linking it together yet, but there are pieces that are starting to come together.
HERRIDGE: That's correct.
BAIER: There's a lot of look on social media --
BAIER: -- and looking into tweets by specific ISIS accounts.
HERRIDGE: That's right. They're doing a forensics scrub of the suspect's social media footprint and they're also looking at the messages that are out there from ISIS. What we know this evening is that there are a series of messages with a very specific time stamp of 10:34 -- you see it right there. That's important because it came, based on the time stamp, 11 minutes before the attack took place.
And when you read the script it seems to have foreknowledge of what was going to come in Chattanooga and that is a mirror image of what we saw earlier this year in Garland, Texas with the attack on the Muhammad cartoon drawing contest. Sort of a foreknowledge by ISIS overseas that there was a plot inside the United States. [Fox News, Special Report, 7/16/15 via Nexis]
6:12 P.M.: Charles Payne: “There Was An ISIS-Related Tweet That Went Out, And It Mentioned Chattanooga, Moments Before The Shooting.” On Fox Business' Making Money with Charles Payne, host Charles Payne made the same claim, saying,
PAYNE: There was an ISIS-related tweet that went out, and it mentioned Chattanooga, moments before the shooting occurred. Now we're still investigating yet, no one knows, we can't say definitively that there is a link, but it feels like, you know, this a kind of spooky thing that people want to know -- OK, we know there's a hundred, there are millions of messages that go out on the internet and social media, but there's got to be a way, if these are authentic, in the future, to maybe prevent some of this damage. [Fox Business, Making Money with Charles Payne, 7/16/15]
7:20 P.M.: Lou Dobbs: Connection Between Tweet And Shooting Is “Uncertain,” But “It Looks Very Suspicious.” On Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs and correspondent John Roberts continued to theorize about a connection between the shooting and “tweets [that] came out from an ISIS-linked Twitter account about 10 minutes before the shooting began”:
DOBBS: And one of the things that we know is that there was some traffic on social media, specifically on Twitter, from an account for Jihadist John in which there was a clear warning to Chattanooga, another to Berlin. It is uncertain as the timestamp as those tweets went out. But it looks very suspicious, that relationship between thetweets by the -- purportedly -- Jihadist John and the acts of Abdulazeez.
ROBERTS: And at the very least, Lou, it does look very suspicious. And as Catherine Herridge, our fine national security correspondent, reported not too long ago, those tweets came out from an ISIS-linked Twitter account about 10 minutes before the shooting began. Now, was it coincidence? Was that the indication for Abdulazeez to act? Was he lying in wait, just waiting for that tweet to come out? That's something that the investigation, no question, will reveal. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 7/16/15]
Fox Eventually Walks Back Reporting, Admits Tweet Came Hours After Shooting Began
6:46 P.M.: Baier Begins To Walk Back Reports That ISIS-Linked Tweet Preceded Shooting. Later in Special Report at 6:46 p.m., host Bret Baier began to walk back the reports, saying “we have to be careful” about alleging the tweet preempted the shooting because “the time stamp does say 10:34, but we don't know if that's Pacific time”:
BAIER: Let me be careful about the tweet to the ISIS-related account. In Garland, Texas we know that it came out before the shooting, before that happened. In this case, the time stamp does say 10:34, but we don't know if that's Pacific time, Mountain time, Eastern time, so we have to be careful about it coming out before the shooting. Point is there are ISIS accounts that are pointing directly to this incident and touting it as one of own. [Fox News, Special Report, 7/16/15]
8:03 P.M.: O'Reilly: “I Have To Mention” That ISIS May Have Tweeted About Shooting, Even Though It's Unclear “Whether It's Accurate.” At 8:03 p.m. host Bill O'Reilly pushed the faulty timeline about the ISIS-tweet while noting the report may not be accurate:
O'REILLY: There is one sensational report tonight that I have to mention, even though it is not exactly clear whether it's accurate. Apparently a tweet from an ISIS-based source announced the terror action before it actually happened. Catherine Herridge is on that story and will join us shortly. If ISIS is involved, even indirectly, all hell is going to break loose in this country. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/16/15]
8:14 P.M.: Herridge: “There Are Now Some Questions About Whether That [Tweet] Timestamp Is Real Accurate.” After being asked by O'Reilly if the story about an ISIS tweet mentioning Chattanooga before the attack is true, at 8:14 p.m., Herridge acknowledged, “There are now some questions about the time stamp on one of the ISIS tweets earlier today”:
HERRIDGE: I first saw it this afternoon. It was part of the social media that was circulating. And the timestamp on the bottom on its face said 10:34, which based on Eastern time, with the shooting, would have appeared to be in advance. There are now some questions about whether that timestamp is real accurate, but I would argue in this particular case it's an example of how these groups latch on to these events and celebrate them. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/16/15]
8:56 P.M.: Baier Admits ISIS-Linked Tweet Came After Chattanooga Attack, Not Before. At 8:56 p.m., near the end of The O'Reilly Factor, Baier acknowledged that the ISIS-linked tweet was sent hours after the Chattanooga shooting, not before, as Fox had repeatedly claimed:
BAIER: One thing Bill, on that tweet that you brought up at the beginning, all indications now are that it came out after the attack, and that it either was a Pacific time timestamp, or - but it looks like--
O'REILLY: A bogus situation?
BAIER: Yeah, and that -- but nevertheless, it was touting the attack as a success for ISIS. But it wasn't a preconceived thing. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/16/15]
10:41 P.M.: Hannity Acknowledges That Jihad Watch Claim On Tweet “Turned Out Not To Be True.” At 10:41 p.m., Hannity admitted that Jihad Watch's initial report “turned out not to be true,” and Jihad Watch's director Robert Spencer conceded that his reports “were inaccurate” about the timing of the tweet:
HANNITY: Robert, let me ask you about a report that you put out earlier today. And I think you were quoting the Associated Press if I'm not mistaken, about a potential Islamic State tweet warning about the attack, and that it was posted at 10:34. That turned out not to be true?
SPENCER: Well, it was a genuine tweet, but it seems that it came from the Pacific time zone. And so it was almost certainly posted after the attack and not during or before, and so the initial reports were inaccurate about that. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/16/15]