Salaheddin Barhoum and Yassine Zaimi, who had nothing to do with the attack on the Boston Marathon besides being there (two hours before the bombs went off) and loving running, have filed a lawsuit against the New York Post for implying otherwise. Barhoum, a 16-year-old high schooler, and his 24-year-old running buddy are claiming that the Post’s “Bag Men” cover was libelous, inflicted emotional distress, and invaded their privacy, the Boston Globe reports. “The front page would lead a reasonable reader to believe that plaintiffs had bombs in their bags, that they were involved in causing the Boston Marathon bombing,” says the complaint, and that it led to “scorn, hatred, ridicule, or contempt in the minds of a considerable and respectable segment of the community.”
The Post, well practiced in strongly suggesting things without coming right out and saying them, was deliberate in its wording, which could make the case hard to win: The story read, “Investigators probing the deadly Boston Marathon bombings are circulating photos of two men spotted chatting near the packed finish line … Meanwhile, officials have identified two potential suspects who were captured on surveillance videos taken shortly before the deadly blasts … It was not immediately clear if the men in the law-enforcement photos are the same men in the surveillance videos.”
“We did not identify them as suspects,” Post editor Coll Allan argued, technically telling the truth. “All NYPost pics were those distributed by FBI,” Rupert Murdoch tweeted at the time. “And instantly withdrawn when FBI changed directions.” That part is less true: The Post still has a photo of Barhoum and Zaimi, with red circles around their heads, on its website.
And the intimation in the cover image is clear. “They’re saying these are the guys with the bombs in the bag,” one of Zaimi’s lawyers said to the Globe. “What kind of stereotyping and profiling, what type of reasoning, led the Post to think this was OK to do?” another lawyer wondered. “And would they have ever done this if this was just some white kid from the suburbs who was standing there with the backpack?” The answer is obvious, and hopefully the men get at least a settlement in lieu of the apology the Post never provided.