Add ABC’s World News and the NBC Nightly News to James Taranto’s list of news outlets (“Losing His Religion: A Pentagon terror scare and a media taboo”) which refuse to identify Yonathan Melaku, who was caught in Arlington Cemetery with suspicious material and a notebook praising the Taliban, as a Muslim.
Instead, on Friday night ABC offered a bunch of ways to describe Melaku , who caused a major incident when his car was found hidden in bushes near the Pentagon -- starting with anchor Diane Sawyer who identified him simply as a “Marine Lance Corporal.” Reporter Pierre Thomas referred to him as “the suspect” multiple times as well as a “Marine reservist,” “a 22-year old Ethiopian American” and a “lone wolf.”
ABC, at least, took the incident seriously, running a full story. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams read a short item in which he cited the actions of “a Marine reservist.” The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley didn’t utter a syllable about it.
Flashback to November of 2009 Ft. Hood murder spree: “CBS and NBC Fail to ID Hasan as Muslim; ABC's Raddatz Relays: 'I Wish His Name was Smith'”
From the Friday, June 17 ABC World News, closed-captioning corrected against the video by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth:
DIANE SAWYER: And a 22-year-old Marine Lance Corporal is behind bars tonight in a Washington, D.C., terror scare. The area around the Pentagon was thrown into chaos this morning by a backpack loaded with suspicious materials. The FBI says he apparently acted alone, but who was he? And what exactly was his plan? Senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas has been on this story all day. Pierre?
PIERRE THOMAS: Diane, it was a tense morning here at the Pentagon, as police feared they had uncovered a terrorist plot. Now, they are racing to find out if the suspect was mentally unstable or a lone wolf terrorist.
It all began at 2 a.m when an Army policeman confronted a man at Arlington Cemetery. The man flees. Police run him down and find something alarming. The suspect, Marine reservist Yonathan Melaku, a 22-year-old Ethiopian-American, is carrying a backpack filled with four Ziploc bags of a substance that looks like ammonium nitrate, a key bomb-making material. Also inside, spent 9 mm ammunition and a notebook containing the words "Taliban rules," "mujahadin" and "defeated coalition forces." They also find the suspect's car hidden in the bushes off a Pentagon parking lot. Police fear the worst. They worry the suspect has planted bombs at the cemetery in the Iwo Jima Memorial, located just a mile from the Pentagon.
SERGEANT DAVE SCHLOSSER, U.S. PARK POLICE: The question is are there multiple devices and are these devices at various sites around here?
THOMAS: They shut down traffic all around the Pentagon. Authorities later raced to Melaku’s suburban Virginia home to search for bomb-making material as the FBI launches an international investigation to dissect his life. As the morning wore on, a fuller picture emerged. The FBI initially could find no links to terrorist organizations.
BRENDA HECK, FBI: We do believe at this time that this individual acted alone.
THOMAS: As for the material in the backpack, it may be ammonium nitrate, but it was not the type that is explosive. And the searches of his home and car have turned up no explosives. Many in the FBI believe that this is the most immediate threat in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death: lone wolves showing up for revenge, Diane.