The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting on its website that the photograph (at right) that it circulated of Father Anthony Mercieca -- the accused molester of disgraced Congressman Mark Foley nearly 40 years ago -- is actually an innocent librarian at the Gozo Cathedral Public Library. The mistake was uncovered by the Associated Press.
Because Mercieca was featured on the library's website, the newspaper assumed a photograph appearing near his name was, in fact, Mercieca. Bad move. I found the web page from which they obtained the picture. Here's the paragraph of text next to the now-infamous photo, which was published on websites -- including countless newspapers' nationwide -- yesterday:
"The main benefactors of the library is Father Anthony Mercieca of Florida USA. For 23 years he sent many thousands of books on all subjects under the sun. A fair estimate would be that Fr Tony has donated about 75% of all the 120,000 books that the library presently possesses. During these 27 years the main librarian working full time in the library was Mr Anton Farrugia assisted by a staff of ten helpers."
Guess what? The photo was of Farrugia, who has got to be one very unhappy man about right now. Just another reminder of how treacherous this trade called journalism can be. Here's the Herald-Tribune's mea culpa on its website:
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Herald-Tribune corrects photo with Foley story The Herald-Tribune published the wrong photo with its story Thursday identifying the priest who may have sexually abused former Rep. Mark Foley.
The photo was not of Anthony Mercieca, the Malta priest who Foley's lawyer says abused Foley.
The Herald-Tribune took the photo from a section about Mercieca on the Gozo Cathedral Public Library web site. The Associated Press in Malta reports the man in the photo was a librarian.