Last April 19, Glenn Beck told listeners that he had a big scoop for them – maybe, one of the biggest scoops of his career.
“What we do going forward from here will determine the fate of our nation,” he said.
Mr. Beck, the conservative talk show host, told the audience that Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi, a young Saudi national who was studying English in Massachusetts, was behind the dual explosions that had ripped through a crowd at the Boston Marathon four days earlier.
And the FBI was covering it all up, continued Beck, on his radio program "The Blaze."
Mr. Alharbi, whom federal officials had interviewed but cleared of all involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings, is now suing the radio pundit for defamation over numerous comments Beck made on air last spring casting Alharbi as the “money” behind the bombings and alleging that government officials were protecting him.
Beck “repeatedly questioned the motives of federal officials in failing to pursue or detain Alharbi,” as well as “repeatedly falsely accused Mr. Alharbi of being a criminal who had funded the attacks that took place at the Boston Marathon,” reads the lawsuit, filed March 28 in US District Court of Massachusetts.
“Those statements were made widely and publicly,” it says. “The statements were false and caused grave injury to the plaintiff.”
Alharbi is seeking damages of unspecified sums from Beck, "The Blaze," another radio network that Beck owns, and the radio network that syndicates Beck’s programming. The talk-show host has made no public comment regarding the suit.
FBI officials questioned Alharbi, who was at the marathon finish line and was wounded in the blast, in his hospital bed just after the bombing but determined he had no connections at all to the attack. The agency went on to name brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev as the two suspects in the bombings, releasing their photos to the public on April 18.
But Beck was not having it.
“We know who this Saudi national is.… We know he is a very bad, bad, bad man,” he said, referring to unspecified “information” he had on a connection between the Boston bombings and Alharbi, as well as on a vaguely described government conspiracy to let Alharbi go free. "The Blaze" would report the full news, said Beck, if the government did not heed his warning to do so first.
“The truth matters,” said Beck. “I thought I had heard and seen it all. I thought I didn't trust my government. Oh no, no, no. There is no depth that these people will not stoop to.”
Three days later, Beck, in a smart blue shirt and black tie, speaking somberly and with lowered eyes, was still vague as he laid out his theory to the radio microphone:
“What are the odds,” he said, that Alharbi “just happens to be at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, cheering for his favorite Kenyan runner … and boom, the bomb goes off.”
“What an odd, odd thing,” he said, alleging that Saudi Arabia had a reputation as a funding source for terrorists. “And I can see why Janet Napolitano [then secretary of the Department of Homeland Security] and this administration would have a hard thing time explaining it.”
On May 9, Beck continued, now in terms that were even more blunt: Alharbi, he said, was an Al Qadea "control agent" who had recruited the two bombing suspects to execute the attack, as well as had financed the operation.
“You know who the Saudi is? The money man. That’s who the Saudi is. He’s the guy who actually paid for it,” said Beck. “The cops know it. The FBI knows it.”
Alharbi was one of a number of young men whom federal officials, members of the public, and journalists wrongly tagged as suspects in the bombings, amid the media frenzy that unfolded in the chaotic aftermath of the attacks.
Two of those people, Salaheddin Barhoum and Yassine Zaimi, have a lawsuit pending in Massachusetts against the New York Post, over a front-page photograph that the tabloid had published of the two students at the finish line. The photo – captioned “Bag Men” – directed to an article inside that included an additional photo of the two young men.
The New York Post was also the first media outlet to call Alharbi a “suspect” in the case, according to Islamic Monthly.
Sunil Tripathi, a student from Brown University in Providence, R.I., who had gone missing from school a month earlier, was also tossed into the fray when commenters on Reddit claimed a match between FBI photos of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and pictures of Tripathi that had been posted on a Facebook page set up by worried relatives trying to find him.
Tripathi, who was found drowned near Providence, was identified as a suicide unrelated to the Boston bombings – but not before the unfounded allegations that he was “Suspect No. 2” had gone viral.