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NY Times sends letter to Fox News demanding an apology for 'malicious and inaccurate’ reporting

The New York Times sent Fox News a letter Sunday demanding an apology for "malicious and inaccurate" reporting based on a "Fox & Friends" segment on Saturday and story on FoxNews.com. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The New York Times sent Fox News a letter Sunday demanding the cable news network apologize for what it said was “malicious and inaccurate” reporting about the Times.

The complaint centers on a “Fox & Friends” segment that aired Saturday morning where one of the show’s three co-hosts blamed the Times for leaking intelligence about a covert military raid in 2015, which allegedly led to the escape of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

While the story was talked about on air, Fox displayed the chyron: "NYT FOILS U.S. ATTEMPT TO TAKE OUT AL-BAGHDADI."

Danielle Rhoades Ha, vice president of communications for the Times, said in a letter that her organization wants a public apology from "Fox & Friends" as well as a tweet from the "Fox & Friends" Twitter account acknowledging the error.

"I am writing on behalf of The New York Times to request an on-air apology and tweet from 'Fox & Friends' in regard to a malicious and inaccurate segment 'NY Times leak allowed ISIS leader to slip away,'" Rhoades Ha wrote.

"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 The New York Times for comment," she explained.

The Times report in question published details about a May 2015 military raid that led to the death of top Islamic State leader Abu Sayyaf as well as the capture of Sayyaf's wife, Umm Sayyaf. The raid was particularly notable because U.S. forces were able to secure a trove of laptops, hard drives and documents belonging to the terrorist group.

According to the Times, the paper didn't publish the story with details about the raid until weeks after the raid happened. The outlet also says details it published had already been publicly acknowledged by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Also, the Times said the Pentagon had zero issues with the report when the paper reached out for comment before publishing it.

"No senior American official complained publicly about the story until now, more than two years later," Rhoades Ha said.

Indeed, the story resurfaced Friday after Gen. Tony Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, said last week at a forum in Colorado that U.S. forces were on the heels of capturing al-Baghdadi following the May 2015 raid but the "lead went dead" after it was "was leaked in a prominent national newspaper."

A story on FoxNews.com then connected Thomas' comments with the Times' report, according to The Associated Press.

Fox has since responded to the Times' request. According to Politico, Fox said: "The FoxNews.com story was already updated online and 'Fox & Friends' will also provide an updated story to viewers tomorrow morning based on theFoxNews.com report. For all of their concern about accuracy, the New York Times didn't reach out to anyone at Fox News until Sunday afternoon for a story that ran Friday night."

In addition, a Fox News executive, speaking anonymously to Politico, skewered the Times for the timing of its letter, in addition to the fact that the Times appeared to have simultaneously emailed media reporters when sending its letter to Fox.

The executive told Politico:

NYT PR VP Danielle Rhoades Ha did not contact Fox News until Sunday afternoon — a day and a half AFTER the FoxNews.com story was published. She sent a letter to the reporter on the story — Catherine Herridge — at 3:30 pm on Sunday while being too cute by half and sending it to the press simultaneously — likely bcc’ing reporters.

Herridge interviewed General Thomas at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday and did a wrap-up story on the panel for FoxNews.com, which was published on Friday night. Seems like an awfully long time to wait to correct something if they were so concerned about accuracy. And Ha did not reach out to Fox & Friends until 2 p.m. on Sunday for a story that aired Saturday morning. ... Why did it take them so long to reach out?"

If we notified the press every time the N.Y. Times had to update an online story or correct something, your inbox would crash.

According to Politico media reporter Hadas Gold, the Times directly sent her the letter it sent to Fox at 3:33 p.m. EST Sunday afternoon, seemingly corroborating the executive's claim that reporters were simultaneously sent the email.

The "Fox & Friends" segment later gained national attention Saturday after President Donald Trump tweeted about it from his personal Twitter account.

"The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi. Their sick agenda over National Security," Trump wrote.

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