Fake Quotes in Letter to Editor to Michigan Paper - iMediaEthics

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This is different. The Daily Press in Michigan published a letter to the editor from a man named Mike Olson. But, that letter contained fake quotes–quote that were taken from a satire site, no less–and the newspaper published it anyway. Now, Olson has submitted a new letter to the editor , which apologizes for including fake quotes, and the Daily Press has published that, as well.

“I apologize to Daily Press readers for my sloppy journalism,” Mike Olson wrote. “It is my fault totally. In the future I shall be very careful and quote accurately and state opinions clearly. I am sure that I will be read critically and I do wish to write accurately.”

Olson’s Sept. 6 letter, “Democrat’s constitutional crisis,” attributed false quotes to Democratic senators Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. The quotes, which are false, claimed:

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “Time and time again we find progressive laws getting struck down, and it’s always the ones the Constitution is against. These right-wing justices don’t think for themselves; they just do whatever the Constitution says, and it’s time for that to end.”
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said, “We need judges to be advocates of progressive laws not people who will bow to the whims of the Constitution, pitting its extremist values of freedom of speech and religion against our agenda.”
  • New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said, “We’re sick and tired of the Constitution sitting in the National Archives manipulating everything we do.”

All three quotes originated on the site the Babylon Bee, not from the mouths of the senators. The Babylon Bee’s website notes at the bottom it is “your trusted source for Christian news satire.”

The quotes and letter were still apparently intact, with no note as of Sept. 18 regarding the errors. Daily Press editor Brian Powell told iMediaEthics that letters are usually fact checked but that one “fell through the cracks.”After our e-mail, the paper unpublished Olsen’s first letter.  “Mr. Olsen’s original letter has since been taken off of our website,” he wrote. “No additional notes were published beyond the original letter, his letter of apology, and several other rebuttal letters from other letter writers.”

In addition to Olson’s apology, the Daily Press published several letters to the editor in response, criticizing Olson’s original letter for a lack of fact checking.

Teresa Ross called for everyone to fact check and provided links showing the quotes were fabricated. Ross also noted the original letter didn’t list sources.

Rich Clark noted that “a two second Google search” busted the quotes as fabricated and from a satire site. “The quotes were hyperbolic enough to raise a red flag as to their legitimacy,” he wrote.

Similarly, Wendy Pepin wrote that “a 3-second fact check” showed the quotes were bogus and recommended the author “vet his sources more thoroughly.”

Matt Stein called for the paper’s editor to “make a comment as to this fake news and should use it as an example of how fake news spreads.”

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Fake Quotes in Letter to Editor to Michigan Paper

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