With the publication of an interview with Sgt. Mark Todd, the actual cop who gunned down the killer at Fort Hood -- following its account of an unnamed eyewitness last night -- the New York Times finally underlined what some of us noticed from nearly the start: the media fell hook, line and sinker once again for a military account of what happened during the tragedy.
First, it was the "death" of Major Hasan, not corrected for many hours. Then, for days, the story of how a female cop brought down the shooter, even as she was receiving serious wounds. Yet I noticed just hours after the attack that scattered eyewitnesses, via the Web and Twitter, were saying that the killer re-loaded after Sgt. Kimberly Munley went down.
How could he have done that if she had just plugged him four times, supposedly ending the rampage? Some of those witnesses said they yelled at the second cop to shoot Hasan--which he did, and then went up and kicked his gun away. Yet for days the media rarely questioned the military's "official" story of Munley as savior. The New York Times was one of many who put Munley on the front page and declared, on Nov. 7, that she was the person who nailed Hasan. Its headline: "She ran to gunfire, and ended it." It said flatly that she "brought down the gunman."
The Associated Press talked to Sgt. Todd later that day and he described his actions, but Munley's role remained murky. To its credit: The Times much later did help bring out the truth.
Most news outlets for days labeled Munley "the" (singular) Fort Hood hero. She was the "Mighty Mouse." It wasn't until two days ago that Sgt.Todd got feature billing, although in a secondary role. Now, in the past day, he is finally getting his due as the original account begins to fall away. The cop most responsible for saving the day, it turns out, is a black man, not a white woman.
What else will turn out false about Fort Hood claims from military, e.g. the "Allahu Akbar" shouts by Hasan? Was there any reason that the military deliberately boosted Munley and slighted Todd?
Yes, Munley is a hero for facing the bullets. And, no, this isn't another Jessica Lynch case, but it does have some disturbing similarities. Fool me once this past week, blame the military. Fool me twice, blame the media. What happens next?
UPDATE: For response from Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, go to E&P article.