CNN hoaxed by FAKE mayor, Chris Dorner Coverage Gone Wrong

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(Credit: CNN, screenshot, highlight added)

CNN was hoaxed by someone posing as Big Bear Lake Mayor Jay Obernolte, according to a note on its live blog coverage of the police manhunt for Christopher Dorner in the San Bernardino Mountains. Dorner is the former “Los Angeles police officer suspected of killing three people — including a police office in Southern California — and posting a manifesto on Facebook outlining plans to kill the families of those who he says wronged him.”

CNN unpublished the information from the person posing as the mayor, according to the correction post, which reads:

“[Updated at 5:34 p.m. ET] In posts at 5:06 p.m. ET and 5:09 p.m. ET, we reported apparent information from Big Bear Lake Mayor Jay Obernolte. We have learned that the man we spoke to was not the mayor, so we’ve removed the information. We regret the error.”

iMediaEthics has written to CNN asking

  • How did CNN learn it had interviewed someone posing as the mayor?
  • How did the interview come about?  Did the person contact CNN, or did someone call in posing as the mayor?
  • What did the fake mayor say?

An email has also been sent to Obernolte asking if he has done any interview wtih CNN today, and if he knows if the hoaxer posed as him in any other interviews. We’ll update with any responses.

Some previous high-profile errors CNN has made have included:

  • Airing the wrong photo of a woman killed during Hurricane Sandy, which Anderson Cooper corrected the next day.
  • Reporting that the New York Stock Exchange was flooded during Hurricane Sandy when it wasn’t. CNN tweeted a correction
  • Saying last summer that the Supreme Court “struck down the individual mandate for health care” when it didn’t.  In that case, CNN quickly sent out multi-platform corrections through e-mail, social media and online.

In an odd twist, during the breaking news coverage of the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings last December, Gawker reported that CNN had aired the wrong photo of the alleged shooter. But, CNN pointed out that it hadn’t made the error at all, and Gawker corrected its story, iMediaEthics wrote at the time.

Hat Tip: Gawker

UPDATE: 2/13/2013 2:06 PM EST: CNN now says it wasn’t hoaxed and that the apology note was posted because of an “internal miscommunication.” Check out our follow-up story.

UPDATE: 2/14/2013 1:18 PM EST: iMediaEthics talked to Big Bear Lake Mayor Jay Obernolte. Check out our interview and follow-up report.

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CNN hoaxed by FAKE mayor, Chris Dorner Coverage Gone Wrong

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