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Perverting History at NPR: Commenting on Orlando, Terrorism Reporter Reverses Political Lesson of Madrid Blast
Shortly before noon on Sunday (6/12/16), during NPR‘s national coverage of the horrific shooting in Orlando, NPR “counter-terrorism correspondent” Dina Temple-Raston made a critical false claim that deserves an on-air correction.
NPR‘s hosts were talking about the Orlando shooting, terrorism and the US election. They asked Temple-Raston to chime in on the issue, and she drew a parallel with Spain, claiming that when the 2004 Madrid train attacks happened just before the Spanish election, “the more conservative candidate ended up winning.”
This is exactly backwards.
In fact, the incumbent government, led by the conservative People’s Party, had brought the country into the Iraq War a year before against public opposition, and feared that if the attack were shown to be Mideast-related, voters would be furious. The day of the attack, March 11, 2004, the Spanish government had the United Nations Security Council pass resolution 1530, which condemned in “the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA.” Three days later, the day of the election, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility.
Before the Madrid bombing, the People’s Party generally lead in the polls by 4 or 5 percentage points, but the Socialist Party ended up winning by 5 points. The victorious Socialists had called for the removal of Spanish troops from Iraq during the campaign.
Crucially, there were substantial protests in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, which included messages like “No to Terrorism—No to War.”
After winning the election, the Socialist Party withdrew troops a month earlier than promised. I can’t find a record of any Mideast-related attacks in Spain since.
It’s remarkable that NPR‘s self-described “counterterrorism correspondent” would make such a false statement. This case seems to show an example of a country that may have reduced the danger of terrorism by ending participation in an aggressive war. That’s something that should be regularly highlighted: Can we learn something from this?
Instead, the reporter who should be highlighting this story reversed the historical lesson.
Note: Dina Temple-Raston’s statement does not appear to be on NPR‘s website or its transcripts on Nexis. (I tweeted about it twice at the time, using Temple-Raston’s Twitter handle.) The failure to put all of NPR‘s broadcasts online lessens accountability for the powerful, publicly funded network.
This article originally appeared on FAIR.