NY Post Editor Col Allen and his offending newspaper headline.

NY Post Editor Col Allen and his offending newspaper headline

Sulahaddin Barhoum, the 17-year-old high school student identified by The New York Post as a “bag man” in the Boston Marathon bombing, made a tearful plea today (Apr. 18) to clear his name. He had nothing to do with the attack, according to authorities.

The newspaper ran a photo of Barhoum and his running coach at the race. He was holding a blue running bag and his friend was wearing a backpack. As such The Post branded them “Bag Men.”

Barhoum brought the bag to a news conference to show it wasn’t used in the blast, along with several running medals as he spoke about learning his photo had gone viral on the Internet, thanks to the New York newspaper.

“Late last night friends started calling and emailing me – they said my photo was all over the internet, that I was a suspect in the Boston bombing,” he recounted. “I was terrified, I have never been in trouble and I feared for my security,” he added.

Sulahaddin Barhoum pictured in a photo from his Facebook page.

Sulahaddin Barhoum pictured in a photo from his Facebook page.

Barhoum, who is Moroccan and moved to the United States with his family four years ago, called a friend to take him to the state police to clear his name. He was astonished to find out there was no interest in him. “They didn’t even take me into a private room. They made some calls, then said I was free to go,” he said.”

“I was there about 25 minutes but I was very frightened. I still am – my photograph is all over the internet and I worry that someone, a mad person, might come after me and my family,” he explained. He lives with two sisters and a brother.

Barhoum said he was in the vicinity of the bomb blast, but only stayed until the top runners finished and went home. The bomb exploded about two hours later. He said he started getting messages from friends around 9:30 the following night. “No one seems quite sure how our photos got out there and we were identified as suspects,” he said.

Two bombs that exploded within about 20 seconds of each other at the height of the race Monday, killed three, including an eight-year-old boy. More than 180 people were injured.

Today, The New York Post and its Australian editor Col Allen came under a barrage of criticism for jumping the gun and pandering to racist fears. Allen did tried to put the best face possible on the media gaff, claiming the paper never said they were suspects.

He said the image had been mailed to “law enforcement agencies,” which were “seeking information about these men, as our story reported.”

To add insult to injury, the front-page photo was accompanied by a full-page headline calling Barhoum and his friend “bag men.” In a subhead, the Post added: “Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon.”

Well, they did have bags, as did hundreds, if not thousands of others. But that was all that made them suspicious. Except Barhoum was clearly of Arab descent.

Sadly it’s not the first time The Post has pandered to racist fears, and probably won’t be the last as long as Allen is calling the shots.