Fox News program “Fox & Friends” fell for a satire story earlier this week, reporting the story as factual news.
The story – that the Los Angeles Police Department was buying $1 billion worth of jetpacks for police, paramedics and the fire department – was reported on the Oct. 4 Fox News morning program. The $1 billion would buy 10,000 jetpacks. Shortly after the brief segment discussing the jetpacks, Fox’s Steve Doocy acknowledged that while they had earlier said the LAPD would be buying “a bunch of them,” the LAPD in fact isn’t. (Note: the word “correction” wasn’t said.)
See the video clip of both the announcement of LAPD-jetpacks and the “correction” here on Mediaite’s website.
The Los Angeles Times explained why the LAPD-jetpack story wasn’t believable. “For those doing the math at home, the cash-strapped city of Los Angeles, which is regularly sending its police detectives home because it can’t pay all their overtime, allegedly shelled out a billion dollars on space-age transportation that it has never used in an emergency situation, much less tested,” The Los Angeles Times noted.
The chief of the LAPD also debunked the story.
“We certainly haven’t bought any jetpacks,” said city police chief Charlie Beck, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “We haven’t bought [squad] cars for two years.”
Gawker credited Weekly World News with being behind the satire story. See the Weekly World News’ satire story on jetpacks here. Weekly World News dubs itself “The World’s Only Reliable News,” and its “About” page indicates that it’s not a news site, as it mentions space aliens, Big Foot, and Bat Boy. (Bat Boy is a half-boy, half-bat character Weekly World News has written about over the years.)
CNET noted that while the “Fox & Friends” and Weekly World News stories aren’t real, the Martin Jetpack is. A Martin Aircraft Company product, the jetpack was “originally designed with the leisure market in mind,” CNET reported.
Past Satire Dupings in the Media
iMediaEthics has written several times this year about media outlets being duped by satire sites.
In September, for example, Washington Post writer Jonathan Capehart reported from a satire Twitter account purporting to be the 54th congressman from California. However, California only has 53 congressional districts.
In August, The Huffington Post was criticized by The Atlantic for falling for satirical website ChristWire.org. The Huffington Post had criticized a ChristWire.org article as if it were serious, not satire.
In May, Gawker-owned blog Gizmodo was also duped by a satire site – this time a Brazilian site called Sensacionalista.
Also in May, NBC Chicago and MSNBC reported stories from satirist Al Rankin, who wrote for Hockey Independent about two Vancouver Canuck hockey players. Rankin’s article reported that players Kyle Wellwood and Shane O’Brien were reprimanded “for allegedly planning a day-long tour of deep-dish pizza joints in the greater Chicago area.”