AP’s Incredibly Misleading Headline Treats Jerusalem Train Attacker as Victim

The Associated Press has found itself in hot water for a pair of incredibly misleading headlines about a deadly Jerusalem light rail attack allegedly carried out by a member of Hamas.

For those unfamiliar with the Wednesday attack: A three-month-old girl was killed, and eight others were injured, when a car plowed through the afternoon crowd at an east Jerusalem light rail station. The suspect attempted to flee the scene but was gunned down by Israeli police. Officials have identified the man as part of Hamas, and have claimed this was a terror attack.

Here’s the headline that accompanied the AP’s original reporting of the story:

Regardless of your feelings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s easy to see how this headline is egregiously deceptive, especially coming from a respected institution like the Associated Press.

As you can see in the screengrab, the article itself identifies the attack as suspected terrorism. Perhaps a more responsible headline — even at the time when news was still breaking and details were scant — would have been something along the lines of: “9 injured in suspected terror attack at Jerusalem train station” or, even more plainly spoken, “9 injured in suspected attack on Jerusalem train station.”

An hour later, the AP updated its headline: “Car slams into east Jerusalem train station.” Not much better seeing as it bizarrely and passively paints the car as the aggressor. The BBC apparently went with this style of headline, too: “Car hits people at Jerusalem station” (they eventually settled on “Jerusalem car ‘attack’ kills baby at rail station”).

Eventually the AP settled on its current, more factually blunt headline: “Palestinian kills baby at Jerusalem station.”

But was it really that difficult to come up with a truthful headline that didn’t downplay the story’s tragic nature and the potential for it having been an intentional attack?

UPDATE — 12:30 p.m. ET: The Associated Press provides comment on the matter:

The headline in question was short-lived, written when confirmed details of what happened were scarce. The headline was replaced in just over a half-hour as AP continued to publish updates about the incident, the driver and the victim. The final version of the story, and its headline, made clear what had happened.

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