Accuracy in Media

Although Gaddafi’s dead “adopted daughter” story is now widely recognized as regime propaganda, the disinformation will continue, perhaps for many months. Reporters such as NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who publicized the lie, are reluctant to admit that they fell for a Gaddafi trick.

Consider a Carl Bagh story in the “International Business Times” on August 5 of this year. It said, “Gadhafi lost his nine-year-old adopted daughter Hana in a 1986 U.S. airstrike.”

A story in August at another website called said, “The Americans did kill Gaddafi’s eighteen-month-old adopted daughter and injured two of his sons.” She was now just 18 months old when she died.

Writer Will Colvin reported last month: “Barbara Slavin of USA Today reported in 2004 that on several occasions, female journalists slept with Gaddafi in bids to gain interviews. She also claimed Gaddafi’s ‘adopted daughter,’ who was killed in the 1986 US airstrikes on Benghazi and Tripoli, was in fact adopted posthumously and had no relation to the dictator.”

This column appears to be recycling my information about Slavin’s comments—that she saw evidence of Gaddafi claiming a dead girl as his own, and insisting she was killed in the raid—back in 2004. But there was never any evidence that Gaddafi ever had an adopted daughter in the first place.

Yet the stories continue:

  • An August 23 Reuters dispatch in the Jerusalem Post said, “The US responded with air raids hitting one of Gaddafi’s homes and killing his adopted daughter.”
  • The Belfast Telegraph on August 30 said, “Among those killed in the 1986 attack on Gaddafi’s residential compound was his adopted baby daughter, Hanna.”
  • Peter Guest, a staff writer for, reported on August 23, “Reagan ordered a bomb attack on the Gaddafi compound, which missed the Colonel, but killed his adopted daughter, Hanna.”

Isn’t it amazing how the media report things that aren’t true years after they have been exposed as false? If they can be so susceptible to the propaganda of someone as evil as Gaddafi, what other lies are they presenting as truth?

In one of the most amazing blunders, in a story about the Gaddafi compound after the rebels had ransacked the place, Andrew Malone and Vanessa Allen of the Daily Mail said, “If there was any morsel of sympathy to be gleaned for Gaddafi, it was from the ghostly bedroom of his adopted daughter Hana, who was only a few months old when she was killed in the raid.” Her bedroom had been made into a “shrine,” they said.

Even at this late date, these reporters are buying into the propaganda. They saw this ghostly “shrine” and accepted it as face value, in the same way that the North Koreans erected a phony village on their side of the border that blares propaganda to the south.

“The fact that Hana Qaddafi had been killed in the bombing was presented as historical record by the media,” notes Chris Richardson of the Christian Science Monitor. In other words, this was not just Libyan regime propaganda. And it is a major blot on the record of the American and international media.

Richardson goes on, “Given the propaganda seen in the final days of his regime, it may not be so far-fetched that his claims of murder, baby Hana’s elaborate funeral in 1986, and even the ‘Hana Festival of Freedom and Peace’ in 2006, were just part of his elaborate propaganda machine.” Lionel Richie reportedly performed at this function.

Time magazine is now reporting, “In Libya, it’s an open secret that a Hana Gaddafi studied medicine in Tripoli. The young woman was apparently protected by bodyguards. ‘When I asked who she was, I was told she was Hana Gaddafi, Gaddafi’s adopted daughter who was supposedly killed in 1986,’ says an anonymous Internet commentator who claimed to have studied medicine at the university at the same time.”

The major media should set the record straight, not only by telling the truth, but by exposing how they fell for the lies.

Mark Whittington at Yahoo!News put it this way:

“President Reagan has been dead these past seven years. Those who vilified him in life have largely been silent, mainly because of his undoubted role in winning the Cold War and removing from the world the specter of nuclear annihilation. But perhaps an acknowledgement from the mainstream media, starting with Mitchell, that they were, after all, repeating Libyan propaganda uncritically and thus smearing a great president would be warranted.”

It would be nice for Andrea Mitchell to go on the air and simply say, “I’m sorry. I was duped. I have lost your trust. I resign.”

But a news organization that hires a racial charlatan like Al Sharpton does not have very high standards. Still, Mitchell should do the right thing—resign.

*This is a special report from the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism. You can read Part One here, and Part Two here.

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