AP issues correction for misidentifying director of ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film

The Associated Press tonight issued a lengthy correction to its reporting about the person behind the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" film that has contributed to protests in Cairo, Yemen and Libya, including one that led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The correction offers detail on how the AP came to identify the writer/director as "Sam Bacile," and how it was subsequently unable to confirm "the existence of a person with that name."

AP Director of Media Relations Paul Colford explains to Poynter by email, "After the initial story ran out of L.A., AP staffers worked diligently, here and abroad to detail the background of the individuals involved and the circumstances."

The correction:

In a Sept. 12 story about a film that sparked deadly protests in Libya and Egypt, The Associated Press quoted a man who identified himself in several phone conversations as Sam Bacile, and who said he wrote and directed the film. The AP story quoted him saying he was an Israeli Jew.

In later reporting, the AP was unable to find any public records confirming the existence of a person with that name.

The AP subsequently reported that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was the key figure behind the film. Federal authorities confirmed that finding. A federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday that authorities had connected Nakoula to the man using the pseudonym of Sam Bacile. Federal court papers filed against Nakoula in a 2010 criminal prosecution noted that Nakoula had used numerous aliases, including Nicola Bacily and Robert Bacily. Nakoula told the AP on Wednesday that he is a Coptic Christian.

The person claiming to be Bacile said in his conversation with the AP that the film was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors. According to Film L.A. Inc., which grants filming permits in Los Angeles County, the production company for the film was a Duarte, Calif.-based Christian group, Media for Christ. The president of that organization is a Christian from Egypt.

The Wall Street Journal also quoted Bacile in its reporting. Yesterday it issued this correction:

An article published on Wednesday quoted a person who identified himself as Sam Bacile and who claimed to be the director and producer of the film "Innocence of Muslims." Subsequent reporting indicates that name is a pseudonym. In addition, claims by the person that he is an Israeli-American and that he raised $5 million from about 100 Jewish donors to fund the film weren't confirmed and should have been omitted.

Adrian Chen of Gawker reports that the director of the film is in fact "a 65-year-old schlock director named Alan Roberts." The report says Roberts also directed "softcore porn classics like The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood."

  • Craig Silverman

    Craig Silverman (craig@craigsilverman.ca) is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification.


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