A senior official in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government blasted US television network Fox News on Tuesday for a “false” tweet claiming a Moroccan was the suspect in the Quebec mosque mass shooting.
Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s communications director, demanded that Fox News retract or fix the Twitter message, noting that police had released that suspect Monday after they determined he had not been an accomplice in Sunday’s attack.
The Fox News tweet posted at midday Monday on Twitter “contains false and misleading language relating to the identity of the suspect in the Quebec mosque terror attack”, Purchase said in a letter to Fox News co-president Bill Shine obtained by AFP.
“Over the course of the day, this proved to be false information. In fact, the suspect was identified as a 27-year-old French Canadian — not someone of Moroccan origin,” she wrote.
“Sadly, this misleading information has been left to stand on the Fox News Channel’s twitter account and continued to circulate online even now.” Amid the uproar, Fox News later deleted the tweet.
Six people were killed in the attack at the Sainte-Foy mosque during evening prayers and eight were wounded.
The suspect in the shooting spree, Alexandre Bissonnette, was arrested after surrendering to authorities. He was charged Monday with six counts of premeditated murder and five counts of attempted murder.
“These tweets by Fox News dishonor the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities,” Purchase said in the letter.
The Canadian government spokeswoman also appeared to criticise US President Donald Trump, who issued a controversial executive order temporarily halting refugee arrivals and blocking immigrants from seven Muslim nations as part of an effort to stop “radical Islamic terrorism”.
“We need to remain focused on keeping our communities safe and united instead of trying to build walls and scapegoat communities,” Purchase said, noting that Muslims are the group most victimised by terrorist acts around the world.
“To paint terrorists with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims is not just ignorant — it is irresponsible,” she said.
“For all of these reasons, we ask that Fox News either retract or update the tweet to reflect the suspect’s actual identity.”
By 0030 GMT, the network had deleted the tweet, saying: “we regret the error.”
“Thank You,” Purchase tweeted. “We appreciate it.”