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FBI debunks ugly rumor at UPMC McKeesport about Middle Eastern doctors said to have celebrated attacks

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

By Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The FBI normally isn't in the business of squelching rumors, but yesterday agents took the rare step of refuting a nasty one circulating around McKeesport in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.

There was talk last week that some Middle Eastern doctors at UPMC McKeesport celebrated the attacks.

The FBI says it isn't so.

"We've investigated and it has been ruled to be absolutely and totally false," said FBI spokesman Jeff Killeen.

Hospital officials said FBI agents visited the hospital Sunday, interviewed employees and reached the same conclusion management had last week: It didn't happen.

Hospital spokeswoman Claire Daday said the rumor apparently began with an e-mail to Jim Quinn, a radio disc jockey at WRRK-FM. He repeated it on his show in the wake of the attacks. The hospital investigated and issued a press release last week saying the rumor was unfounded. Quinn apologized on his show Friday.

KDKA morning host John Cigna said on Thursday's broadcast that he had heard a secondhand report of such an incident.

On Friday, the hospital placed a full-page ad in the McKeesport Daily News refuting the rumor.

Daday said she doesn't know where the e-mail came from, but she's trying to find out.

"All of our physicians and staff, as healing and care-giving professionals, are deeply saddened at the terroristic attack on our country resulting in the tragic loss of many lives," she wrote in the release. "As a hospital we have been unified in prayer for the victims and families as well as our country."

The story has apparently mutated several times in the telling. Some versions say five doctors celebrated, some say four, some say three.

Killeen said the version the FBI investigated had two doctors who looked Middle Eastern showing "signs of celebration" after the attack. He wouldn't name the doctors, but he said they were concerned about being subjected to abuse.

He said agents are in the midst of the largest and most intense investigation in FBI history, so they checked on the rumor, as they have every other lead that has come in to their headquarters in the federal courthouse.

Killeen said the person who started the story, and those who spread it, were "simply not thinking."

"It's not a fair thing to do in light of the vast majority of people of Middle Eastern descent who are upstanding and outstanding Americans who contribute to American society," he said.



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