On Monday, the New York Post doggedly stuck to its claim that 12 were killed in the Boston Marathon bombings. On Tuesday, CNN (among others) reported that a suspect had been arrested, before walking that all the way back. Today, the Post wrests back the "what the fuck are you doing?" crown by putting two "potential suspects" on the cover of the newspaper. They are most assuredly innocent.
The pair show up in multiple photos of the finish line. They carry large bags. They are dark-skinned. This was enough for internet sleuths to peg them as suspicious. (They show up here, in Gawker's rundown of "suspects" identified by crowdsourcing on Reddit and 4chan.) And that was apparently enough for the Post to run with its front-page story today, claiming investigators are circulating photos of the two. (The photo on the paper's cover is a cropped and zoomed-in version of the one taken by Ben Levine, which appeared on Deadspin on Tuesday.)
But maybe there was a reason for them to be at the marathon, wearing track jackets and carrying bags: they're runners.
The kid in the blue jacket is a middle-distance runner at Revere High School. Last week he ran the two-mile in 11:20. Here he is, training for either global jihad or a track meet:
Yesterday he caught wind that his name and social media profiles were being circulated online, and he did what any teenager would do: He panicked. He made his Facebook timeline private, and in one message now no longer visible, he announced he was going to clear his name.
Going to the court rightnow!! Shit is real. But u will see guys I'm did not do anything
(We're not naming the guy or linking to his Facebook page, a pointless courtesy, but we figured we should extend it in this instance.)
Witch hunts end as quickly as they begin. Today on CBS This Morning, John Miller specifically said these two are not the suspects the FBI is seeking. This Boston Globe story sheds more light on the images authorities are using to track down the suspects, and their description makes clear it's not a high schooler and his friend:
The official said that the two suspects were seen separately on videotape — one at each of the two bombing sites, which are located about a block apart.
There's also the matter that his bag isn't even the same color as the one recovered from the scene.
Reddit is panicking too. In the "FindBostonBombers" subreddit, the top post tells users to stop spreading the images of these two, and urges people to delete anything already posted that identifies them.
(The second-top post reads, "Media outlets, please stop making the images of potential suspects go viral, then blaming this small subreddit for it.")
But that's the internet, with some degree of anonymity and expectation for inaccuracy. How will the Post explain away its front cover ("Bag Men"), and the top story still there on the website ("Men in Sights")? Presumably authorities distributed many photos of people with large backpacks and duffel bags. How did these two end up with their brown faces splashed all over the world? Do we even need to ask?
Update, 2:20 p.m.: The New York Post reports exclusively that the two men in the photo had nothing to do with the bombings.
Update, 2:30 p.m.: ABC has spoken with the boy in the photo, Salah Barhoum. His mother is "sick and upset."