While the world breathed a sigh of relief after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the death of genocidal ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Sunday, some mainstream media outlets took the opportunity to provide cover for the Islamist extremist.

Several outlets including the Washington Post, the New York Times, MSNBC and Bloomberg took the announcement as an opportunity to criticize Trump or portray Baghdadi in a positive light instead of condemning ISIS.

In one glaring case, The Washington Post referred to the murderous leader of ISIS as an “austere religious scholar” in their coverage of the successful U.S. operation.  

The headline reporting on his death has since been changed from: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48” to “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.”

Initially, the story’s headline referred to al-Baghdadi as ISIS’ “terrorist-in-chief” but was quickly changed to the more favourable headline. The story was only updated by the outlet after wide public condemnation and outrage over the positive spin on the extremist responsible for countless human rights violations and deaths.

By 2017, the Global Terrorism Index reported that ISIS (or ISIL) had committed a total of 1,132 terror attacks worldwide, resulting in 9,132 deaths and 7,723 injuries. The Canadian government believes that a total of 180 people have travelled from Canada to fight for the terrorist organization and others like it, and that 60 have already returned to the country.

Similarly, the New York Times wrote an obituary on the Islamist leader highlighting his childhood as a young man with a “spiritual gift” and a model who cleaned the Mosque as his pastime. 

In another instance, an MSNBC reporter asked on live television whether the successful U.S. operation which killed al-Baghdadi and several other ISIS leaders “only reinforces the ideology of Baghdadi’s followers, and in fact, strengthens it?” 

Bloomberg also highlighted al-Baghdadi’s journey from “a little-known teacher of Koranic recitation into the self-proclaimed ruled of an entity that covered swaths of Syrian and Iraq”, referring to the illegal Islamic State established in the region. 

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