The New York Post’s Friday morning framing of the killing of five Dallas police officers was shockingly irresponsible ― even for a paper that once recklessly insinuated two bystanders at the Boston Marathon bombing were suspects in the attack.
“Civil War” blared the headline across the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid. The Post then framed Thursday night’s demonstration in Dallas, a response to two high-profile police shootings of black men killed in recent days, as an “anti-police protest.”
The cover, known as “the wood” in tabloid parlance, quickly drew attention on social media and cable news.
Around 2:45 a.m., MSNBC anchor Brian Williams held up the Post cover during breaking news coverage of the shooting. “Not uncommon to have hyperbolic page 1, but let’s hope this headline is wrong for our country and this is not a civil war,” he said.
While facts continue to emerge, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said Friday morning that a sniper, who had expressed a desire to kill white police officers and was “upset about Black Lives Matter,” had been killed by police, and three others were in custody. Dallas police and protesters were getting along before Thursday night’s shooting and reportedly helped one another during the chaotic event ― details that wouldn’t support the Post’s sensational headline.
Several journalists on Twitter criticized the Post’s declaration of a “civil war.”
“Most unprofessional and irresponsible headline of the year? Decade? Ever?” The New York Times’ Nick Corasaniti asked. Journalist and author Marc Ambinder said “the cover is beyond absurd; it is morally perverse and factually wrong.” Fortune’s Dan Primack tweeted that the “Post and Drudge are in a battle to see which can be more irresponsible this morning.” (The Drudge Report splashed the headline “Black Lives Kill” as events unfolded early Friday morning.)
A Post spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The conservative tabloid is known for reflexively supporting police and, unlike its tabloid rival, the Daily News, has shown little sympathy for the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement following police killings of unarmed black men.
On Thursday morning, the Daily News ran a graphic front-page photo of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man who was killed by Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police Tuesday morning. The headline, “His hands we’re empty,” appears below Sterling’s lifeless body, his shirt covered in blood.
Following the police shooting of Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, the aftermath of which his girlfriend captured on a jarring video, the Daily News designed a Friday cover showing a black child alongside the names of those killed by police and the provocative question, “Am I next Daddy?” The paper tweeted it out just before 9 p.m.
That original cover, which teased a Daily News editorial, “Cops’ race killings must stop,” was striking. But that front page text, especially, could be seen as tone deaf in the wake of police officers being killed in Dallas, a story dominating the news cycle when New Yorkers would pick up Friday’s print edition. Daily News Editor-in-Chief Jim Rich declined to comment.
Though some copies with the original cover were published, The Daily News tweeted a new Friday front page around 1:30 a.m. that captured a tragedy still unfolding in Dallas with a more appropriate headline than its competitor: “Madness.”
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