Back in May, a Denver TV news station aired a fake story after being hoaxed by a source, Media Bistro’s TV Spy reported. The TV station, Fox-affiliate KDVR, had reported May 18 that a man named Daniele Perazzi, “the president of the Italian company Perazzi shotguns,” was questioned by authorities after a cab driver accused him of being a terrorist.
The online story reported that a cab driver called the cops on Perazzi for carrying “seven shotguns” and accused him of being a terrorist. “Perazzi was taken in for questioning by law enforcement, but was released a short time later,” the story claimed.
Problem is, it didn’t happen and it couldn’t have happened — because he is dead!
Perazzi has been dead for almost a year, so he certainly couldn’t have been toting guns in Colorado. Daniele Perazzi died last November, according to a statement posted on Perazzi’s Facebook page Nov. 7, 2012.
The Adams County Sheriff’s Office, which KDVR falsely reported brought in Perazzi, said KDVR didn’t even bother to fact check the claim.
KDVR has since appended an editor’s note to the story admitting the story was a hoax. That note reads in part:
“EDITORS NOTE: FOX31 Denver has since learned that the source in the story below fabricated her story. No Perazzi executive was in Denver, nor questioned by authorities.”
KDVR’s news director, Ed Kosowki, explained in a statement that the station didn’t verify the story properly. “More steps should have been taken to corroborate Aguirre’s story and verify information provided by” its sources, he is quoted as saying, adding that the station is “reviewing policies and procedures” in light of the incident.
Will Perazzi Sue over ‘Absolutely False’ Story?
The Perazzi company promptly denied the story in full as did Adams County Sheriff’s Department, which the station wrongly reported as in charge of the questioning. In a May 20 statement on its website, the Perazzi company called the KDVR story “completely devoid of any foundation” and “absolutely false.” Further, the company said it’s looking into legal action because it seemed like the fake story was for “purposes exclusively defamatory” as it didn’t seem like a “simple mistake.”
However, when iMediaEthics asked officials at Perazzi July 21 if the company had made any decision about suing KDVR, we got mixed results.iMediaEthics asked how Perazzi learned about the fake KDVR story, if Perazzi had contact with KDVR about the errors and ensuing corrections, and if Perazzi will file a lawsuit.
An unsigned e-mail from the Perazzi company in Italy stated: “We prefer not answer to your questions. Sorry.” But, a representative from Perazzi USA responded to our questions.
The Perazzi USA spokesperson told iMediaEthics that the company discovered that they were the brunt of a hoax “through a customer,” and that the company hasn’t discussed it yet with KDVR. The spokesperson went on to say that “no decision has been made yet” about suing KDVR.
Sheriff’s Office: ‘Fox 31 Dropped the Ball’
In a statement on its Facebook page, the sheriff’s office said it was “shocked” to learn about the report because its “investigation revealed that the Adams County Sheriff’s Office had no involvement with detaining, arresting, questioning, or being in contact with any person from the Perazzi Corporation or any other person at the Denver Mart regarding this alleged incident. ”
The sheriff’s office criticized KDVR for a fact checking failure and called for a correction.
Its statement said, “The Sheriff’s Office feels that it is unfortunate for Fox 31 Denver to have released a report that claimed the Adams County Sheriff’s Office involvement in an event without verifying it first. It is also unfortunate and disturbing for Fox 31 Denver to have released such a bold report before doing their due diligence by thoroughly investigating the tips prior to broadcasting.”
Further, the sheriff’s office called out the station for wasting its manpower to investigate the claims on its own end. The statement went on:
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“This is truly an unfortunate instance where Fox 31 dropped the ball and alleged our involvement when we had none. It is stunning to us that they have not stepped up and said they were wrong. We dedicated a number of hours by three different Divisions in our agency to investigate the Fox 31 report. I believe Fox 31 Denver and Hendrik Sybrandy had a responsibility to fact check and extensively verify information prior to going on the air and making claims that were false.”
Source who Hoaxed Fox 31 ‘Concocted an Elaborate but False Story’
KDVR’s updated story, published on May 22, explained how the station was hoaxed in the first place: a woman named Korrine Aguirre had apparently duped two separate people who served as the newspaper’s source.
As KDVR explained, the station was tipped off to the story by Second Amendment attorney David Kopel, who “referred [the station] to Korrine Aguirre, who, it now appears, concocted an elaborate but false story.”
Aguirre told KDVR and National Rifle Association Colorado board member Steve Schreiner about the alleged story. Schreiner also thought he heard a phone conversation between Aguirre and Perazzi’s lawyer, but he was apparently tricked too. While KDVR apparently tried to get an interview with the Perazzi president, Aguirre said he wouldn’t give one. Of course, since Perazzi was dead, he couldn’t be interviewed, but that’s besides the point.
KDVR reported that while Aguirre’s resume lists her as a law school graduate, the school in question “did not find her on a register.”
Since the story fell apart, Aguirre won’t speak with the station, according to KDVR. Aguirre did appear to talk to Denver NBC-affiliate KUSA, however, saying: “There was a comment that I had made the other day that I probably shouldn’t have made… Apparently that blew up a lot bigger than it was supposed to.”
Unknown why Hoaxer Hoaxed
In an email interview with iMediaEthics, Kopel discussed how he got involved in the phony story. According to Kopel, Schreiner, who he’s known for 25 years “to be a very honest person” alerted him to the story after hearing about it from Aguirre. Both Schreiner and Kopel were interested in the story with the purpose of “trying to help an innocent man be released from jail.”
Kopel said he thought “media attention might help with this,” so he reached out to KDVR and Examiner.com.
“I provided each of them with the same information that I am providing to you,” Kopel wrote. “I made it very clear that I had not been to the gun show, and had no personal knowledge of the events. I provided them with contact information for Schreiner and Aguirre, so that they could follow up and report the story, if they so chose.” Further, Kopel reiterated that he only gave the two outlets “a lead on a potential story.”
“I don’t know why Aguirre pulled the hoax,” he wrote.
iMediaEthics has also been unable to find any motive for the hoax.
KDVR tried to make the hoax look less bad for the station by noting that Examiner.com also reported on the Perazzi claims. In its own post, which is still published but also now includes the Perazzi company’s statement and an explanation for what went wrong, Examiner.com said an unnamed Second Amendment attorney tipped the site off to the story. Kopel told iMediaEthics he is the attorney in question.
But, Examiner.com said it had tried to fact check with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, but hadn’t heard anything by publication. Examiner.com wrote:
“The bottom line is, I went through an extraordinary level of verification on this story before publishing it. If it turns out that it is, as the press release states, “completely devoid of any foundation,” that means someone went to extraordinary lengths to create and perpetuate a hoax story, and to draw me and others into it, and to smooth entry by using credible people.”
iMediaEthics has written to KDVR to ask how this hoax has affected the station. We’ve also reached out to Aguirre for more information. We’ll update with any responses.
UPDATE: 7/29/2013 6:56 PM EST: Added in that Kopel alerted Examiner.com to the alleged story.