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New York Times Amends, Attaches Editors' Note to Story on San Bernardino Attacker's Alleged Facebook Post (Updated)

The editors' note was attached a day after the FBI Director publicly corrected the report.

Andrew Burton / Getty Images North America

On December 12, the New York Times reported that San Bernardino attacker Tashfeen Malik had “talked openly on social media” about supporting violent extremism, prior to the December 2 mass shooting.

At a news conference Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey said those reports were wrong and that Malik had not publicly posted on the matter. On Thursday, the New York Times attached an editors’ note to the December 12 story, acknowledging the error.

“Law enforcement officials subsequently told The Times that Ms. Malik communicated with her husband in emails and private messages, and on a dating site,” the note reads. “Ms. Malik’s comments to Mr. Farook about violent jihad were made on a messaging platform, officials said.”

The Times was not the only news outlet to report that Malik made public Facebook posts about the shooting before the attacks. On December 4, NBC, the Associated Press and the New York Times reported that Malik had “pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a Facebook post,” one that Malik reportedly made around the time the shooting began (see update below for more details).

As to whether a correction or editors’ note was in the works for the December 4 article, a spokesman for the New York Times told Re/code that he had “nothing to share on that at the moment.” Phone messages were left for representatives of NBC.

When asked why the Times had attached an editors’ note to the December 12 article instead of a correction, the representative directed Re/code toward a blog post by the paper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that says editors’ notes “may indicate a violation of ethical standards or other serious lapse.”

Matt Apuzzo, the lead reporter on that piece, told Re/code to look at his tweets for his comment on the editors’ note.

The “Gchat-like messaging system” to which Apuzzo is referring sounds a lot like Facebook Messenger.

Update: A representative from the AP reached out to specify that the Facebook post to which their reporting was referring was one Malik made “just before” the shooting began. From the criminal complaint filed against the attackers’ neighbor (who allegedly purchased the weapons used): “A post on a Facebook page associated with Malik stated, ‘We pledge allegiance to Khalifa bu bkr al bhaghdadi al quraishi.’ (AGENT NOTE: Based on my training and experience, I believe that Malik was referring to Abu Bakhr Al Baghdadi, who is the leader of ISIL). “

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