Washington Post Criticized for Obit Headline Calling ISIS Leader ‘Austere Religious Scholar’

Paper updated headline to call Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “extremist leader”

abu bakr al-baghdadi
ISIL released

The Washington Post came under fire on Sunday for the initial headline on an obituary for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that called the leader of the Islamic State an “austere religious scholar.”

“There are no words. But there are three letters: WTF?” The Hill media reporter Joe Concha tweeted about the original headline, which was soon updated to refer to al-Baghdadi instead as “extremist leader of Islamic State.”

Reps for the Washington Post did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but spokeswoman Kristine Coratti Kelly tweeted a message of regret that stopped short of a full apology: “Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.”

The Washington Post did change the original headline to read, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48” and deleted the original tweet — but not before it was seen by many of the Jeff Bezos-owned news outlet’s 14.3 million Twitter followers.


On Sunday morning, President Donald Trump announced that al-Baghdadi was dead after a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria that also killed several ISIS fighters and companions of al-Baghdadi. “He died like a dog. He died like a coward,” Trump said, adding that Baghdadi “spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”

GOP national spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington condemned the Washington Post’s choice of words in its initial headline:

Media commentators also took note and responded unkindly to the newspaper with the hashtag #WaPoDeathNotices, mocking possible other toned-down labels on obituaries of notorious people on history. Here are a few: