The Washington Post has been forced to amend its obituary for the leader of militant group Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after describing the extremist as an "austere religious scholar," prompting outrage online.
President Donald Trump confirmed Sunday that Baghdadi, an Iraqi national believed to be in his late 40s, died on Saturday during a U.S. special forces raid in the rebel-held Syrian province Idlib in the northwest of the country.
U.S. forces reportedly cornered Baghdadi in a tunnel, at which point he detonated a suicide vest killing himself and three young children.
Baghdadi was the world's most wanted terrorist for several years, having helmed ISIS as it rapidly expanded across Iraq and Syria, carving out a so-called caliphate that was some 34,000 square miles at its largest extent. The group also secured the allegiance of numerous other militant groups worldwide.
The Post published an obituary of Baghdadi, but quickly amended the headline three times. The first version described Baghdadi as the "Islamic State's terrorist-in-chief," though this was then changed to "austere religious scholar."
It is not clear why this change was made, but the second version of the headline prompted such outrage that it was changed once again to read: "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48."
But the "austere religious scholar" description drew outrage on social media, especially among prominent conservatives who cited the headline as evidence of the Post's political bias.
Donald Trump Jr. asked whether the gaffe was proof that the Post was an "enemy of the people." He suggested that the Post and other mainstream publications "have harsher criticism for The President of The United States than they do for the leader of ISIS, a known serial rapist and murderer."
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer described Baghdadi on Twitter as a "ruthless, brutal terrorist who threatened our country & is responsible for the death of American citizens." He condemned the Post's words and urged Twitter users to "stop, read this & think about" its headline.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee mocked the Post, calling it the "Washington ComPost" and suggested the publication "deserves the level of sheer contempt America has for them today."
Huckabee attacked the "embarrassing tribute to a terrorist, rapist, torturer and cold blooded murderer," and said the article was proof that the newspaper's staff "hate @realDonaldTrump more than the terrorist who tortured Americans."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the headline was "sick" and noted Baghdadi was "the world's leading terrorist and tens of thousands [died] because of him."
He asked on Twitter, "Would the Washington Post have described Hitler as a 'misunderstood amateur painter'" and suggested the story "should lead to a profound shakeup" at the publication.
In a video posted to Facebook, Gingrich said the obituary headline was like describing the Nazi leader as a "frustrated former painter." He described the headline as "grotesque" and "totally misleading," suggesting that the newspaper "owes the country, the American people, an explanation for how they could possibly have produced" it.
Conservative ideologue Sean Hannity said the article shows "why America will never trust these mainstream corrupt fake news outlets ever again." The television host added that to describe the terrorist leader as an "austere religious scholar" is "sick and repulsive."
The Post's Vice President of communications, Kristine Corrati Kelly, acknowledged the misstep on Twitter. "Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly," she wrote.