The online edition of China’s Communist Party mouthpiece and other state media that picked up a satirical article about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and reported it as straight news are not the first to be duped by The Onion.
Here are other memorable instances:
• “ABORTIONPLEX”: A U.S. congressman seemed initially taken in by a February report by The Onion that an “$8 billion Abortionplex” was opening in Kansas. U.S. Rep. John Fleming, or someone on his staff, posted the article on Facebook with the comment: “More from Planned Parenthood, abortion by the wholesale.” The article included references to a sprawling 900,000-square-foot facility with the amenities of a shopping mall and “2,000 rooms dedicated to the abortion procedure.” The Facebook post was removed but not before it was immortalized on the website Literally Unbelievable, which collects credulous Facebook responses to stories by The Onion.
• “AMERICANS FOR AHMADINEJAD”: An Iranian news agency fell for an Onion story in September about a fictional survey that showed that most rural white Americans would rather vote for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than President Barack Obama. The English-language service of Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency republished the story, copying the original word-for-word. The Fars report even included a made-up quote from a fictional West Virginia resident who says he’d rather go to a baseball game with Ahmadinejad because “he takes national defense seriously, and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does.”
• “CONGRESS HOSTAGE-TAKING”: Capitol Police were not amused when The Onion posted an article and tweets in September last year saying that members of Congress had taken a group of schoolchildren hostage. A police spokeswoman said an investigation had been launched into the website’s reporting, which included tweets and an article that spoke of congressional leaders, “brandishing shotguns and semiautomatic pistols,” taking a class of schoolchildren hostage and threatening to kill them if they didn’t get $12 trillion in cash. It showed a doctored picture of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, holding a gun to a child’s head and reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was firing a handgun and wearing black pantyhose over his head. The story and tweets came a day after the FBI arrested a Massachusetts man accused of planning to bomb the Pentagon and the Capitol with explosive-filled model airplanes.
• “CONGRESS THREATENS TO MOVE”: One of Beijing’s biggest tabloids ran as news the fictional account by The Onion in 2002 that the U.S. Congress wanted a new building and that it might leave Washington. The article was a spoof of the way sports teams threaten to leave cities in order to get new stadiums. The article was picked up by the Beijing Evening News, which acknowledged its mistake with a manager saying the paper would “consider this a warning and will strengthen supervision of our reports.” The manager said the article was sold to the newspaper by a free-lance writer and editors didn’t know the source before they published it.
On the Web…