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Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)

A Wedding Was Bombed–Don't Worry, It Was by the US, Not in the US

Last Friday, it was reported that what seemed to be a US drone strike hit a wedding convoy in Yemen, killing over a dozen people. It got attention from outlets like the New York Times (FAIR Blog, 12/13/13), which reported that "most of the dead appeared to be people suspected of being militants linked to Al-Qaeda, according to tribal leaders in the area, but there were also reports that several civilians had been killed." Other accounts (CNN, 12/13/13) suggested that most–and perhaps all–of the dead were civilians. 

Writing at the Atlantic (12/16/13), Conor Friedersdorf posed the question: 

Can you imagine the wall-to-wall press coverage, the outrage and the empathy for the victims that would follow if an American wedding were attacked in this fashion? 

Of course that's correct. But since that's not what happened, a different question might be: What kind of coverage did the strike in Yemen get, particularly on US television?

On ABC's Good Morning America (12/13/13), anchor Josh Elliott reported:

And some breaking overseas right now. A US missile has struck a convoy headed to a wedding party in Yemen, killing at least 13 people. That region is a well-known Al-Qaeda stronghold.

Translation: We don't know who died, but it happened in a country full of terrorists.


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On NBC Nightly News (12/13/13), anchor Brian Williams said this:

The death toll now appears to be 15, with five more injured, from a US drone strike in Yemen that missed its target this week and struck what witnesses described as a wedding party. It was the 24th reported drone strike in Yemen so for this year.

It's hard to tell if this is true, since it's not clear what the target was in the first place; it's possible that the strike hit the target it intended to hit. 

The strikes were mentioned on MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes (12/13/13), where the host explained that some reporting suggested that the drone strike "was targeted at a group of Al-Qaeda associated militants who were in that wedding convoy," and that "the most I've seen from the reporting is five of those were Al-Qaeda militants." Hayes went on to say, "This seems like madness to me."

And CNN's Around the World (12/13/13) had an actual report about the strike, with correspondent Mohammed Jamjoom reporting that there is "increasing anger in Yemen because of the drone program."

That was about the extent of the interest shown by US television.

The New York Times, which had that first story that singularly claimed "most of the dead" were Al-Qaeda-linked militants–or, rather, appeared to be suspected of being such–has not published any follow-ups that would either substantiate or correct their initial report. But then, why would it need more coverage? The United States wasn't the victim–it just killed those people.

Peter Hart

Peter Hart

Peter Hart is the Communications Director at the National Coalition Against Censorship. Previously at the media watchdog group FAIR, Hart is also the author of "The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly" (2003).

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